I went to see the new hit romantic comedy movie Crazy Rich Asians just a few days ago with no preconceptions of what it was all about. Ended up thoroughly enjoying this funny and engaging movie. While it had all the elements of a typical rom com, it is also a satire about the over-the-top conspicuous consumption of the super rich. Much has been said about how refreshing it was to see an all Asian cast - all of whom are from incredibly diverse backgrounds themselves  -  but you don't have to be Asian to recognize the universal longing for love and acceptance for who you are, and not where you're from or who your family is.

The movie is based on the best selling book trilogy by Singaporean-American, Kevin Kwan.  Both the author and director Jon M. Chu paid extraordinary attention to detail for the big screen adaptation of the first book. A story about the unbelievably wealthy needed to show opulence through sumptuous locales, designer gowns, suits and naturally, luxury jewelry.

Trailer :

Costumes and Jewelry
The costume designer, Mary Vogt, put together haute couture designs and jewelry to suit every character in the movie.  Some of the costumes were from the likes of Dolce and Gabbana, Marchessa,Stella McCartney, Christian Dior and local designers such as Carven Ong.

All the major characters wore real jewelry while minor characters were decked out in costume jewelry.

The last time I watched a movie which used so much real, high end jewelry was the Indian epic about Akhbar the Great and his Rajput princess ( see my past post The Jewelry of a Bollywood Movie).

Hong Kong based Michelle Ong of Carnet ( mentioned in book) designed this amazing (and large) brooch worn by the matriarch of the family (played by veteran actress, 91-year-old Lisa Lu of The Last Emperor fame).

Sun Kissed Brooch by Carnet : White and fancy diamonds set in platinum and 18 K yellow gold
Warner Brothers

Mary Vogt was also able to borrow pieces from high end jewelers like Mouawad, Chopard and Bulgari.  Pieces like these are not typically rented out.  As you can imagine security was tight on set and loans had specified end dates when the jewelry had to return to vaults.

The toughest piece to get right was the large emerald and diamond ring worn by another veteran actress, Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon).  It plays a role in the movie's narrative. What they had in mind just wasn't good enough until the actress offered her own ring! Michelle is also an ambassador for the luxury watches by Richard Mille. She wears hers in the movie :

Michelle Yeoh in Elie Saab tulle dress and coat  Photo :Warner Brothers

A watch gift features briefly in the movie, too.  There was a frantic search for a collector of an iconic watch willing to loan it for the movie. Eric Wind (perfect name!), a watch specialist at Christie's, came through with a Rolex Daytona. Not just any Rolex Daytona but from the rarest series with the "Paul Newman" dial denoted by these reference numbers - 6239, 6241, 6262, 6263, 6264 or 6265.  (Paul Newman's 6239 sold for $17.8  million).

Rolex Daytona series 6263 with the Paul Newman dial
Location Gems
There were other "jewels" in the movie including historical gems.   Nick Young, the lead male character, is supposed to come from an old money Peranakan family. Peranakan or descendants of Straits born Chinese who were early settlers in the area. Kevin Kwan, the author, is a Peranakan. (I, too am Peranakan but we were poor!)

The movie shows many extras in the wedding scene dressed in the traditional Peranakan nonya kebaya formal wear much like my grandmother, my Ah Mah, created and wore (see my past post on 100 Years of South East Asian Nonya Embroidery). Some of the scenes showing historical architecture are Peranakan in style.

The movie was shot in both Malaysia and Singapore. Here are some jewels from the movie where you can visit if you were ever out that way.

Raffles Hotel, Singapore - the historic colonial era hotel where the cocktail,  Singapore Gin Sling, was created.  I was lucky enough to be treated to lunch there many years ago. I wonder if they are still using the same decades old silverware stamped with "By Appointment to His Majesty the King" I used?

Old shophouses in Bukit Pasoh, Singapore which is now a conservation site. The Peranakans introduced some art deco elements into their unique fusion cultural style.

The 19th century Chijmes, Singapore (pronounced as Chimes) began as a Catholic convent. It was where the wedding took place in the movie.

Singapore is also an ultra modern city.  Some of the following photos are my own.  Changi International airport is an incredible place, a model of what an airport can be.  Shown below is a tiny glimpse!

One of my favorite places is well featured in the movie - the Marina Sands Bay area with its distinctive 3 towered hotel.  The whole area is spectacular at night.

Nearby is the fabulous Gardens by the Bay with the Supertree Grove.  Singapore is tropical so it is humid and hot be on the walkways!

There are two nearby giant (note : air conditioned) conservatories. The Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest look really small in the movie.  The Cloud Forest has a 7 storey high waterfall and orchid encrusted, misty "lost world" called Cloud Mountain!

Cloud Forest entrance
I don't have a wide angle lens so this photo by Allie Caulfield better shows what the Cloud Mountain looks like with its many walkways. No photo really does this place justice!

That part of the world is a foodie's paradise.  I have never eaten at Newton Square where one scene was filmed but there are many others like it in Singapore and Malaysia. People eat out a lot especially in the evenings when it is cooler!

Langkawi Island, Malaysia :

The 19th century heritage building, Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion in Penang, Malaysia. The interior served as the mahjong parlor in the movie.

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Original Post by THE BEADING GEM
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