Crazy Rich Asians. 2018
Directed by Jon M. Chu
Starring Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Gemma Chan, Lisa Lu, Awkwafina, Sonoya Mizuno, Chris Pang, Jimmy O. Yang, Ronny Chieng, Remi Hii, Nico Santos, Ken Jeong, and Michelle Yeoh
This contemporary romantic comedy, based on a global bestseller, follows native New Yorker Rachel Chu to Singapore to meet her boyfriend’s family.
Crazy Rich Asians proved to not only be one of the big hits of the summer, but the biggest romantic comedy in over a decade and not without good reason. The film is a well-crafted adaptation that hits all the right notes, both with its heart and comedy. Filled with a fairly large ensemble cast led by Fresh Off The Boat‘s Constance Wu, Crazy Rich Asians succeeds thanks to its cast, comedy and direction from Jon M. Chu.
Based on the book of the same name, the film follows Rachel Chu as she’s been invited by her boyfriend Nick to a family wedding in Singapore. After discovering his family is one of the most wealthiest in China, Rachel has to contend with the high standards of matriarch Eleanor and other members of Nick’s family. The film spends a lot of time meditating on the themes of family, culture, love and sacrifice in ways that make the story and characters very fleshed out and feels much more like a drama than a typical romcoms.
Wu gives a great and relatable performance as Rachel, showing how much of a fish out of water she is in Nick’s family and her adaptability to gain their respect. She shares some very nice chemistry with Henry Golding’s Nick in a pair of performances that show why Rachel and Nick are so compatible with each other. Michelle Yeoh is also a standout as Eleanor as she displays both a cold demeanor and skewed compassion towards Rachel, Nick and other members of the family. Wu and Yeoh’s relationship isn’t so much antagonistic as some other romcoms might have, but more comes down to a difference in their cultural upbringings as well as Eleanor’s stern belief in what is best for Nick and the family while still maintaining a certain amount of civility towards Rachel.
With such a large cast for the film to juggle, it can be easy to forget how exactly some characters are related to each other, especially when some characters pop in and out at a fairly random rate. Its a bit difficult to keep track of whose who, but it doesn’t present too much of a problem throughout the film due to their somewhat limited roles. With the exception of one subplot involving Nick’s cousin Astrid, played by Gemma Chan, the focus remains on Rachel and Nick’s story with secondary characters only appearing when the story calls for them. Some standout members of the supporting cast include Chan, Awkwafina as Rachel’s best friend, Jimmy O. Yang as Nick’s eccentric and crude childhood friend and Nico Santos as Nick’s cousin Oliver.
One of the strongest aspects in the film is how it explores the cultural differences between Rachel’s life as an Asian-American compared to the traditional upbringing expected in Nick’s family, one of the main focal points for Eleanor’s dismissal of Rachel. It examines this theme pretty well and subverts some stereotypes often associated with Asian characters in film. For Rachel she grew up believing she can be independent and anything she wants while Eleanor views this as naive and believes it is not just okay, but even encouraged, to sacrifice any dreams of your own to look after family and adopt a new lifestyle. It comes across as a very earnest look into the differences between these two cultures while showing neither one is inherently wrong. It makes Eleanor more than an antagonistic foil for Rachel due to this and Yeoh’s performance.
The blu-ray features contain a full-length commentary between Chu and the author of the novel, Kevin Kwan that is insightful on how the film got made. ‘Crazy Rich Fun’ is a 7 1/2 minute look at the film’s production as well with Chu, Kwan and the cast discussing the importance of an all-Asian ensemble, some of Kwan’s inspirations for the book and actually shooting in Singapore. After that, the features offer a generic gag reel that most likely could have gone beyond its 2-minute runntime and about 12 minutes of deleted scenes. Most of the scenes are easy to see why they were deleted, though a couple that could have stayed in the film were a conversation between Rachel and her mother with a warning of what to expect with a family like Nick’s and a heartfelt conversation between Nick and Eleanor that highlighted the differences between them and how Eleanor’s sacrifice came at the cost of having an earnest relationship with him. It’s a shame, though, there isn’t a feature devoted to the costumes alone as there are some very extravagant costumes and sets that will surely be nominated for some Oscars.
Crazy Rich Asians isn’t a typical romcom, but more of a dramady as it examines the cultural differences between Rachel and Nick’s family and the struggles she faces in getting their acceptance. Constance Wu and Michelle Yeoh give great performances that feed off each other and the supporting cast does well with their roles, even if all the family connections might be hard to follow. Jon Chu directs a well-made film with some gorgeous sets and costumes and gets all he can out of the cast. It is definitely enjoyable and easy to see why so many people were drawn to its at its release.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★