By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
Based on the popular novel by Kevin Kwan, Jon M. Chu’s Crazy Rich Asians may sometimes play like a soap opera or a typical romantic comedy, but it is actually more than that. This charming and entertaining movie celebrates and critiques a beautiful Asian culture with a vibrant and soulful assortment of characters and beats with which some Asian people are probably quite familiar. Much like Marvel’s Black Panther is to African cultures and African-Americans and The Big Sick is to Islamic-American cultures, this film sheds much light and insight on some of the different traditions, problems, and lifestyles that exist in Singapore and among Asian-American cultures. The film also deals with the divisive nature of class and how it fails the world at large. The movie and the story, on which it is based, is a rather ambitious one, and Jon M. Chu and his writers pull it off well. This is definitely crowd-pleasing and feel-good territory, but Chu, crew and cast manage to sell it all without insulting the audience’s intelligence.
Nick Young (Henry Golding) and Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) are starting to get serious in their romantic relationship. Nick has such strong feelings for Rachel that he feels ready to introduce her to his family. He has been invited to his best friend’s wedding in Singapore and decides to bring Rachel as his date. What Rachel doesn’t know is that her humble and loving boyfriend is a member of the richest family there. As they travel to Singapore in nearly the highest class possible and as Rachel begins to discover how wealthy Nick’s family is, she begins to feel overwhelmed and intimidated by the extravagance. To make matters worse, Rachel’s humble American background falls under the snobbish scrutiny of several of those very close to Nick, particularly his mother Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh). Though Nick’s mother is happy to have her son home, she feels he has forgotten who he is and that his rightful place is to eventually become the head of the family. She does not see Rachel as a proper mate for her son, but as an obstacle and distraction to her son’s birthright.
As one can already tell by my rating, I am impressed with the filmmaking and storytelling by director Jon M. Chi and screenwriter’s Peter Chiarelli and Adele Lim. Though I have not read the source material, based on my research on the novel, I think that the filmmakers have given the novel a proper cinematic treatment. Like I previously noted, the film aims to please its audience and succeeds to a large degree. The movie has a great assortment of well-developed characters and decently written and executed scenarios, but does occasionally show how hard the filmmakers tried to offer a feel-good movie. A minute amount of the drama is ham-fisted, but enough of it works that these moments are overshadowed by the winning beats. Superbly written and executed humor also prevails and serves to charm audiences in some very enjoyable ways.
The whole affair is rather winsome and heartwarming and the solid cast helps bring everything to fruition. Constance Wu is wonderfully cast as lead character Rachel Chu. Wu brings much warm charisma and vulnerability to her character and makes Rachel the most relatable and respectful character of the film. Henry Golding has a great screen presence and enough personable charm of his own to make his wealthy prince of a character relatable and likable. The movie has an outstanding supporting cast with Awkafina, Nick Santos, and Ken Jeong offering some hilarious and entertaining turns. Also highly notable are Michelle Yeoh as Eleanor Sung-Young and Gemma Chan as Astrid Leong-Teo, a character who has a compelling subplot of her own.
Because the movie is genuinely compelling, very much enjoyable and offers a bright spotlight on a beautiful culture, I must highly recommend Crazy Rich Asians. Jon M. Chu, his screenwriters and author Kevin Kwan have much to say about Asian culture and do it with much panache. This movie is just too damn lovable to miss.