Cast: Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, Gemma Chan
Director: Jon M. Chu
Synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes: “Crazy Rich Asians” follows native New Yorker Rachel Chu (Wu) as she accompanies her longtime boyfriend, Nick Young (Golding), to his best friend’s wedding in Singapore. Excited about visiting Asia for the first time but nervous about meeting Nick’s family, Rachel is unprepared to learn that Nick has neglected to mention a few key details about his life. It turns out that he is not only the scion of one of the country’s wealthiest families but also one of its most sought-after bachelors. Being on Nick’s arm puts a target on Rachel’s back, with jealous socialites and, worse, Nick’s own disapproving mother (Yeoh) taking aim. And it soon becomes clear that while money can’t buy love, it can definitely complicate things.
Based on premise of this film, I had a feeling that I may not have liked Crazy Rich Asian as at first glance it looks like nothing more than a generic romantic comedy that was not made for me. However, I was completely blown away with just how entertaining, warm-hearted, and eye-opening the movie was. A movie like this could have easily catered exclusively to its intended audience, but Crazy Rich Asians has something that I believe almost everyone can enjoy. While it can get a little campy at times and there is a subplot that really does not go anywhere, an elevating performance by Wu and framing that made a repetitive story feel fresh make Crazy Rich Asians one of the films that has surprised me the most in 2018.
The film follows, Rachel (Wu) and her boyfriend Nick (Golding) who invites Rachel to a wedding in Singapore where she will finally meet his family after dating for an extended period of time. Little does Rachel know that Nick’s family is one of the wealthiest in Singapore, and with that comes certain expectations from both Rachel and Nick. How Rachel learns to adapt in a society she is completely unfamiliar with and the pressure of Nick’s family, especially his assertive mother (Yeoh) shape the plot and show us sides to these characters that they themselves had never encountered before. Starting off with the cultural elements of the film, I was surprised with just how authentic the film felt regarding the differences between Rachel and Nick’s family. It brought up an interesting argument that in America, Rachel is considered ethnically Chinese, but in Singapore, she is considered American. I have never experienced something like this in my life, so seeing this unique sort of identity crisis where no matter where you go, you will not be considered, “truly,” American or Chinese is really unique to this genre of film. This realization was very eye-opening to someone like me, and I can imagine that someone who has gone through this struggle in their life will find those scenes very relatable. In other scenes, their culture is very rarely used as a punchline for a joke. The film spends most of its time exploring the landscape and showing us just how people from a different part of the world live and eat in a very genuine and tasteful way. Outside of the respectful display of culture, I was surprised with just how funny the jokes were. Movies like this are usually full of cookie cutter jokes and moments of awkwardness that I usually do not find very funny. Crazy Rich Asians goes outside of that mold and is littered with jokes that are not only smart and effectively use its PG-13 environment, but there are also dirty jokes that never really end up being crude for the sake of being crude. If you get nothing else out of this movie, at the bare minimum you can say it was enjoyable. While the film as whole is more than a competent film from start to finish, that does not mean the film does not have flaws. There is an unnecessary subplot between Astrid (Chan) and her husband Michael (Pierre Png) who had the same issues that Rachel and Nick have but with a gender reversal and new problems emerging. I understand that this was supposed to give us a different perspective for Rachel and Nick’s problems, but these scenes are inserted awkwardly into the movie and do not have enough of an emotional connection to make much of an impact. Other than that, the only character I felt was portrayed as a stereotype Oliver (Nico Santos). All the other characters had some sort of depth to them that made them more than just an archetype, but Oliver felt as though he was just there to be the gay cousin. He is very flamboyant and many of his actions are exaggerated to a point where they do not seem very realistic. This is a shame, because in a film like this which was built on having respect for characters and their culture seemed to be lacking it with this character.
Overall, Crazy Rich Asians is one of the most eye-opening yet entertaining movies of 2018. Generally handled with respect and funny almost every step of the way, this is the type of movie I hope for every time I see a generic romantic comedy coming out. Wu gives a performance that is incredibly believable as well as relatable while Awkwafina makes the most of her limited screen time by delivering some of the funniest jokes of the movie. Crazy Rich Asians is as close to the gold standard for romantic comedies as you can get while also representing groups of people who are rarely shown on-screen in a respectful, entertaining manner.
Overall Score: 8.5/10