Directed by Jon M. Chu
Written by Peter Chiarelli and Adele Lim
It would be incredibly lazy to just say that the release of Crazy Rich Asians marks the Asian markets retort to the success of Blank Panther. These two movies are so far apart from each other. Sure, you could argue that Black Panther was a movie made by black people for black people that had a mass appeal, and that Crazy Rich Asians is a movie made by Asian people for Asian people that has a mass appeal, but that seems rather deductive. Instead, let’s simply focus on the part about mass appeal, because that is all that really matters. Is it great that there’s a big release vehicle for great Asian filmmakers that has the power to reach a wider audience? Absolutely. But as a film lover, I just love seeing a competently made romantic comedy that seems to get what makes the genre so great and so entertaining. Crazy Rich Asians is both of those things. Let’s celebrate it.
Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) is a successful economics professor at NYU, the youngest in the department. She is also madly in love with Nick Young (Henry Golding) and the two are ready to take their relationship to the next level when Nick invites her to tag along to Singapore to his best friend’s wedding. Ready to meet his family, Rachel is not quite prepared for them. The Young’s are old money in Singapore, real estate magnates who are literally crazy rich. Rachel must contend with Nick’s overbearing mother Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh), while getting to know his cousins. Lucky for Rachel, her college roommate Peik Lin (Awkwafina) is there to help her through getting to know and handle the all powerful and filthy rich Young’s.
Crazy Rich Asians is really such a refreshing entry into the tired rom-com genre. Everybody loves rom-coms (and if you don’t you’re just trying to be cool by lying; spoiler alert: you’re not cool), but for that same reason so many get made, and so many are sub-par. As light and delightful as the genre tends to be, it’s not an easy genre to put out a hit, there is nuance there, nuance that director Jon M. Chu and the cast here knock out of the park. What a pleasant surprise this movie is. Especially with the current climate of the reality TV star, where people are obsessed with following around a “crazy rich” family and their familial drama, Crazy Rich Asians plays off that dynamic by somehow balancing the concept of poking fun at those shows while also being entertaining for the same reason people are attracted to such “trash TV”. It’s an impressive accomplishment.
Much of that accomplishment comes from the marriage of the writing as well as the acting from this wonderful ensemble. The relationship between Rachel and Nick takes center stage, as it should, but this is also a well rounded film which gives other characters and other actors plenty of time to make an impact on the story. From Michelle Yeoh’s Eleanor to Awkwafina’s Peik Lin and Gemma Chan’s Astrid, whose side story is the heftiest. Having this cast full of fun, entertaining, and dramatically effective performances really fuels the central romance really well. Constance Wu and Henry Golding are two actors with which I am unfamiliar, but they both deliver great lead performances as well. There is something to be said to the screenwriters and writer Kevin Kwan, whose novel the film is based, for managing to balance the funny with the borderline soap opera drama that arises. The “Crazy” in the title is deadly accurate, for a both reasons (money and mentality), but somehow it’s all balanced and comes off as entertaining and not cartoony, like it easily could have.
Everything plays into the greater story being told, which is that of love. So often I feel like with rom-coms, there is too much focus on the comedy part and not enough on the romance part. The romance is an afterthought which fits conveniently into whatever comedic premise they’re going for. But with Crazy Rich Asians, it’s the exact opposite, where the romance is at the forefront and funny things happen around it. That is a subtle, but ultimately very important difference, and one I think a lot of failed films in the genre get wrong. The sets are lush and extravagant, as you might expect in a film about crazy rich people, the soundtrack is an effective array of covers of popular English language songs. All in all Crazy Rich Asians should be the surprise hit of the summer if the universe was just. Let’s hope it is, because this film deserves an audience eager for a solid romance.
★★★★ – Loved It