Crazy Rich Asians Movie Review
The craziest part about Crazy Rich Asians is how poorly the trailers capture the crazy. What appeared to be your absolutely stereotypical romantic comedy (only with Asian people) is, in fact, an absolutely entertaining (but still stereotypical) romantic comedy (with Asian people).
Funny, heartfelt and full of crazy rich Asians, Crazy Rich Asians is an immensely fun experience full of extremely good-looking “if I were gay I’d totally sleep with him” and “if I weren’t married and somehow had a shot I’d sleep with her” cast members, amazingly rich locations, and plenty of crazy antics.
The plot is as tried, trued and overplayed as ever: Constance Wu stars as Rachel, a Chinese-American economics professor who travels to Singapore to meet her boyfriend Nick’s (Henry Golding) parents, and for reasons that only make sense in Hollywood he failed to tell her that his family is one of the richest in the world. Rachel is thrust into a world of absolute decadence, and also Nick’s mother’s (Michelle Yeoh) instant scorn.
It’s the most cliché and predictable romantic comedy story in the books—the rich family’s disapproval of their child’s new partner in the face of true love—and Crazy Rich Asians never attempts to mess with that formula.
But it is earnest in its efforts to the best it can be in the face of a stereotypical plot, and it does so in mahjong tiles. Wu is terrific in the lead, but director Jon M. Chu and his casting director Terri Taylor should be commended for delivering audiences both a cast and set of characters that make the most of the material. Yeoh is excellent, but it’s the lesser known cast who charm and energize the audience at every available moment. Awkwafina over-acts the entire film but is a blast nonetheless. Nico Santos is a delight. Jimmy O. Yang, in his brief on-screen moments, is hilarious.
What works so well in Crazy Rich Asians is that Chu properly blends emotion and humor, grounding the absurdity of these absurdly rich people with real-life issues and flaws. As funny and fun as the movie is, its explorations of family dynamics and friendships add an extra layer of sincerity.
I’m white and so can’t adequately speak to the power of seeing an all-Asian cast in a major theatrical release, but based on the anecdotal responses I’ve heard from my friends of Asian descent who have seen the film, Crazy Rich Asians appears to capture at least some of what it feels like to be tied to two sometimes complementary, sometimes conflicting cultures.
My friend who attended with me cried, although for the record she’s also a crazy not-rich-but-comfortable Asian so maybe she would have cried anyway.
Crazy Rich Asians is constrained by a predictably stereotypical plot and has so many characters it can’t really go deep on any of them, and yet the movie is a jolt of late-summer entertainment that will appeal to audiences of any race because, while certain aspects of the story do play specifically to people of Asian descent, the core themes are universal.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.