The real world may be getting crazier by the tweet, which makes films like the heartwarming, funny and all-around amazing Crazy Rich Asians so important.
Is it groundbreaking? Yes and no. For most respects, Crazy Rich Asians avoids so many of the pitfalls that ultimately dooms so many modern romantic comedies even while holding true to the essential tropes. There’s no better way to have a dramatic reunion than at an airport, right? But it’s all those comfort food style romantic comedy moments told through an unfamiliar perspective that makes Crazy Rich Asians feel so fresh.
In a lot of ways, Crazy Rich Asians is reminiscent of fellow 2018 breakout hit, Black Panther. Both films were unapologetic in their celebration of their cultures and audience members willing to embrace something beyond the norm were treated to an amazing achievement in film making. Crazy Rich Asians might not be a game-changing romantic comedy, but it’s exactly the shot in the arm the genre needed. It’s got all the makings of a pop cultural phenomenon and a ready-made franchise.
Rachel (Constance Wu, Fresh Off the Boat) has been dating Nick (Henry Golding) for over a year, but he’s been reluctant to introduce Rachel to his family. She’s oblivious to his family’s Kardashian-level of fame back in his native Singapore and he likes being a regular guy with her.
But with his best friend, Colin (Chris Pang), getting married in a few days to his longtime girlfriend Araminta (Sonoya Mizuno, Ex Machina), he can’t avoid it any longer. It’s time for Rachel to meet the Young Family. Rachel’s mother warns her while she’s Chinese on the outside, she’s grown up with American values. And that likely won’t sit well with Nick’s more traditional family.
Any concerns over traditional quickly vanish as Rachel gets a glimpse of the upper tier high class life starting with a first class flight complete with silk pajamas. Director Jon M. Chu (G.I. Joe: Retaliation) gives viewers a taste of how the one-percenters on the Eastern Hemisphere live and it is glorious. From gold plated chairs, armed security guards, rare flowers and over the top of the top bachelor and bachelorette parties, the Young clan does a party right.
In Rachel, the audience has it astonished avatar as she is awestruck by all the sights. Refreshingly, Rachel can appreciate the crazy cash without becoming engulfed by it. Cinematographer Vanja Cernjul crafts some incredible shots including the most breathtaking wedding scene I’ve seen in a movie.
While being cash-struck isn’t a problem for Rachel, Nick’s mother Eleanor (an excellently frosty Michelle Yeoh) is another matter entirely. Eleanor takes an immediate disliking to this potential obstacle to Nick returning to run the family business. Fortunately, Rachel has some allies in Nick’s kindhearted cousins Astrid (Gemma Chan) and Oliver (Nico Santos) and her uninhibited college friend Goh Peik Lin (Awkwafina, who commits grand larceny in every scene).
The film has an embarrassment of riches with its cast. Ken Jeong (The Hangover) has some very funny scenes as Goh Peik Lin’s father while Kheng Hua Tan brings the heart as Rachel’s mother. This is the kind of cast we’ll look back on years later and remember this was the film that catapulted them to box office success. Wu is especially engaging as a relatable, likable and endearing lead. Golding shows leading man potential in every scene and Awkwafina has the breakout moment that escaped her in Ocean’s 8.
Peter Chiarelli and Adele Lim adapt Kevin Kwan’s 2013 novel to tell the classic outsider story with some engaging twists. I really liked how the script avoids shaming the character’s excessive lifestyle. Money isn’t the root of some of the character’s nasty attitudes, which gives them more depth than being privileged jerks. Some of the characters and subplots get a little short-changed, but nothing essential feels missing. Kwan has two more novels in this trilogy so there’s plenty of time to further flesh out characters in sequels because, yes there needs to be sequels to this one.
Crazy Rich Asians is an absolute crowd-pleaser. Consider yourselves officially invited to the must-see romantic comedy of the year.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
Photo Credit: Sanja Bucko/Warner Bros. Pictures