Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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My Review of the movie IN THE HEIGHTS

In The Heights, rated PG-13
*** ½

In The Heights, the first film we have seen in the theatre since early March 2020, is the film version of the popular Broadway musical written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of Hamilton. It is about a block in the Washington Heights neighborhood in New York City. I really enjoyed this film, and especially the sense of community and the song and dance scenes.
The film was directed by Jon M. Chu (Crazy Rich Asians). The screenplay was written by Quiara Alegría Hudes, based on the Broadway musical by Oscar nominee Lin-Manuel Miranda (Moana). The choreography was by three-time Emmy nominee Christopher Scott (So You Think You Can Dance).
Although we meet a lot of characters from the neighborhood, the film primarily follows the stories of three characters and their dreams. Usnavi, played by Anthony Ramos, who plays the role Miranda did on Broadway, is the owner of a bodega, who dreams of going back to the Dominican Republic to run his father’s beachfront bar. He is close to his dear Abuela, a grandmother figure played by Olga Merediz (who also played the role in the Broadway musical, for which she received a Tony Award nomination). Usnavi employs and mentors Sonny, played by Gregory Diaz IV, who is a “Dreamer”, the son of illegal immigrant parents. Usnavi likes Vanessa, played by Melissa Barrera, who works in a hair and nail salon who dreams of moving downtown to fully pursue her dream of being a fashion designer. Continue reading


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My Review of CRAZY RICH ASIANS

Crazy Rich Asians, rated PG-13
***

Crazy Rich Asians is an enjoyable romantic comedy based on the 2013 novel of the same name by Kevin Kwan, but it does have some content concerns. The film is directed by Jon M. Chu (Now You See Me 2) and the screenplay is by Peter Chiarelli (Now You See Me 2) and Adele Lim. The film had a budget of $30 million.
Nick Young, played by Henry Golding and Rachel Chu, played by Constance Wu, met and fell in love in New York City, where she is an Economics Professor at New York University. They have been dating for more than a year. Rachel is the daughter of a hardworking single Mom, Kerry Chu, played by Tan Kheng Hua.  Rachel and her mother came to America from China when Rachel was a baby. Nick is the heir apparent to his families’ real estate business and vast wealth in Singapore, something he has chosen to keep from Rachel.
Nick asks Rachel to accompany him over Spring Break to Singapore for the wedding of his best friend Colin, played by Chris Pang (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny), where he will be the best man. Nick wants Rachel to meet his mother Eleanor, played by Michelle Yeoh (Star Trek: Discovery) and his elderly grandmother Ah Ma, played by Lisa Lu (The Joy Luck Club).

***SPOILER ALERT***
Rachel begins to get an idea about Nick’s family’s wealth on the flight to Singapore, on which they fly first class and have a room to sleep in on the long flight.  However, when they arrive in Singapore, Eleanor makes it clear that Rachel will never be enough for Nick and that she is unfit to become part of the family. Eleanor doesn’t believe that Rachel is fully Chinese since she was raised in America. In addition, she tells Rachel that she doesn’t have the same social and economic status as Nick and his family. For his part, Nick tries to show Rachel that their relationship means more to him than his family’s money. What can Rachel and Nick do that will lead Eleanor to bless their relationship?
Eleanor is critical of American culture, telling Rachel that all Americans care about is their own happiness. Of the Asian culture, Eleanor states that they learn to put family first instead of chasing one’s passion.
There are those that support and encourage Rachel during this trying time, including her college roommate Goh Peik Lin, played by Awkwafina (Ocean’s Eight), Nick’s cousin Oliver, played by Nico Santos (Superstore), the gay “poor-relation rainbow sheep” of the family, and Nick’s cousin Astrid, a fashion celebrity, played by Gemma Chan (Humans), who is in a troubled marriage with Michael, played by Pierre Png.
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The film makes good use of music and includes some stunning views of the Singapore skyline.
Crazy Rich Asians is a well-made film with a solid cast, but it does have some content concerns which include adult language and several abuses of God’s name and some sexual material (no nudity, but it is shown that Nick and Rachel are sleeping together). Themes include conspicuous consumption, family, wealth and loyalty.
Of note, early in the film we see Eleanor leading a Bible study with a few friends and family members, and hear her read a section of Colossians 3, while another member of the study reads from Ephesians 6.   But does she reflect Christian lovingkindness?