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How Crazy Rich Asians’ Editor Turned A Mahjong Scene Into An Avengers-Style Battle

This article contains some spoilers about the end of Crazy Rich Asians. You’ve been warned!

With a closer look at Crazy Rich Asians, there is quite the clever shift between the light and funny romantic comedy that draws us in and the dramatic second act we are dazzled with as the credits roll. It’s quite the subversive take on an ensemble comedy that critics and audiences alike have been celebrating with box office highs we forgot a movie of this genre could achieve. One scene in particular is arguably the most powerful in the film, and has nothing to do with the romance between Rachel and Nick. It’s when Rachel (Constance Wu) challenges Nick’s mother (Michelle Yeoh) to a game of Mahjong. It’s a dense and dramatic sequence, and when I spoke with the film’s editor Myron Kerstein, he noted that he considers it the highlight of his career: his Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon:

Just like a high-budget battle sequence right out of an Avengers film, a scene such as this relies on action and careful editing for the scene to be entertaining and coherent. Myron Kerstein was able to convey Mahjong to a diverse audience, many of which probably had never heard of or played the game, and have them understand exactly what happened in the scene. He noted that he himself didn’t know the details of its gameplay until he watched director Jon Chu and actress Michelle Yeoh discussing the game as they filmed the scene. He treated the gameplay between Constance Wu and Yeoh as choreography as he crafted the cut together.

Myron Kerstein also credits Constance Wu’s performance as inspiration when cutting the scene, as she gave a particularly powerful performance. While playing the game she shares a realization to Eleanor about her own self-worth and identity that has been challenged throughout the film through her judgement. Said Kerstein,

The scene is certainly quite the showdown of emotions for the two characters who both were looking in the best interests of Nick from their perspectives but couldn’t meet in the middle. Crazy Rich Asians challenged the ideals of a culture with its message as Rachel embraced and Nick’s affluent family embraced her upbringing with a single mother as being enough for the Prince Harry of the east. The film is currently in theaters, and will likely be available on home video before the end of the year.

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