Crazy Rich Asians is a spectacular, heartwarming instant classic of a romantic comedy that brings some much-needed representation to the genre.
With the growing disparity between big studio tentpole movies and more niche Oscar fodder, the romantic comedy has been left somewhere in the middle. Theatrically released rom-coms have given way to buddy comedies (sometimes female-fronted, sometimes not), but the genre is seeing somewhat of a resurgence thanks to streaming services creating original content - like Netflix's The Kissing Booth and Set it Up. Now, though, Warner Bros. is gearing up to release Crazy Rich Asians, a new rom-com based on Kevin Kwan's 2013 novel of the same name. The movie adaptation is set to bring the rom-com back to theaters, in addition to being the first Hollywood studio film since The Joy Luck Club in 1993 to feature Asian American leads. Crazy Rich Asians is a spectacular, heartwarming instant classic of a romantic comedy that brings some much-needed representation to the genre.
Crazy Rich Asians follows Rachel Chu (Constance Wu), a Chinese American economics professor at NYU who's been dating fellow professor Nick Young (Henry Golding) for over a year. For their spring break, Nick invites Rachel to visit his home of Singapore, where he's returning for his best friend Colin's (Chris Pang) wedding. Rachel decides to join him, meaning it will be the first time she's met his family, including his mother Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh). Plus, it gives Rachel the chance to visit her college best friend, Peik Lin (Awkwafina), who also lives in Singapore. However, when Rachel and Nick are upgraded to first class on their flight, she quickly realizes her long-term boyfriend hasn't been completely up front about his family - particularly how wealthy they are - and it takes her by surprise.
Once they arrive in Singapore, Rachel is quickly accepted by Colin's fiancée Araminta (Sonoya Mizuno), and she's invited to the bachelorette party, while Colin and Nick must suffer through a bachelor party thrown by their former classmate Bernard Tai (Jimmy O. Yang). However, Rachel's approached by Nick's ex-girlfriend Amanda (Jing Lusi) and feels less than welcome. Things only get worse when Nick introduces Rachel to Eleanor, who decidedly doesn't think Rachel is good enough for her son. With the help of Peik Lin - and some allies in Nick's family, Nick's cousin Astrid (Gemma Chan) and second cousin Oliver (Nico Santos) - Rachel must decide if she wants to fight for Nick, or escape from the extravagant world of Singapore's rich and famous in favor of her relatively quiet life in New York City.
Crazy Rich Asians was directed by Jon M. Chu (Now You See Me 2) from a script by Adele Lim (Reign, Lethal Weapon, Star-Crossed) and Peter Chiarelli (The Proposal, Now You See Me 2). The movie is based on Kwan's best-selling novel of the same name that was published in 2013 and launched a series of books around his Singaporean characters. Crazy Rich Asians sticks closely to the events of Kwan's novel as they follow Rachel and Nick through their visit to Singapore, with Lim and Chiarelli's script capturing the heart of the book. Of course, there are aspects of Kwan's novel that have been cut out in order to condense the story to a two-hour film, but the streamlined narrative works exceptionally well and was translated expertly by the screenwriting duo. It's a testament to the story and script that Crazy Rich Asians doesn't fall into the traps of many book-to-screen adaptations, and instead seamlessly transitions into a big studio rom-com.
What makes Crazy Rich Asians unique, though, is, the setting of Singapore. Chu's directing allows for the viewer to experience Singapore as much as possible with only the senses of sight and hearing. Much of the movie - all of it, in fact, once Rachel and Nick arrive - is steeped in the culture of Singapore: with sweeping shots of the landscape and architecture, as well as tight close-ups on the food and people. (Not to mention, the soundtrack features songs in English and non-English, further highlighting the mix of Western and Eastern culture.) Chu's care in showcasing the food of Singapore alone is wonderfully earnest - and mouth-watering - from the hawker centre to Nick's family constructing homemade dumplings. Altogether, Chu brings out the extravagance of Singapore and the lives of the people within Nick's family and circle of friends for a vibrantly colorful adventure in a world that Hollywood rom-coms rarely, if ever, visit.
But, the heart of Crazy Rich Asians is the relationship between Rachel and Nick, which is solid when the film begins, but goes through a common trial for many young couples: meeting the family. In the case of Crazy Rich Asians, that experience is made specific to the world from which Nick comes. Still, Wu and Golding have a great deal of chemistry in their performances as Rachel and Nick, anchoring the entire extravagant spectacle of the film in a relationship that's sweet and grounded. Further, Yeoh offers a stunning performance as Eleanor, the multifaceted mother just trying to protect her family, even though her methods may be cruel. Awkwafina is a standout as Peik Lin (providing a great deal of laugh-out-loud comedic relief), while Chan and Santos round out the main cast well, with the former leading her own storyline parallel to Wu's Rachel. The latter is more of a one-note fairy godmother type by comparison, but the character is undoubtedly necessary to the fantasy element of the movie. Altogether, Crazy Rich Asians has assembled a stellar cast that is lead exceptionally well by Wu and Golding.
Ultimately, all aspects of Crazy Rich Asians come together for an over-the-top, spectacular romantic comedy that provides perfect escapist fantasy. But, of course, the movie isn't without plenty of heart to balance its more fanciful moments. The relationships between Chinese children and their parents, particularly their mothers, is as much at the core of the film as Rachel and Nick's relationship. But these themes - romantic love and familial/motherly love - are universal, and it allows for anyone and everyone to find something relatable in Crazy Rich Asians. The story may be steeped in the very specific culture and setting of Singapore, but it's that specificity that actually makes Crazy Rich Asians all the more universal. In a movie genre that tends to stick to the "norm" (read: straight and white) as much as possible, Crazy Rich Asians brings some much-needed representation for Asian Americans, while proving that stories about people of color can be relatable to everyone.
As such, Crazy Rich Asians is for anyone interested in catching a romantic comedy with their friend/friends, date, significant other or partner. It's on the more extravagant end of the genre's escapist fantasy stories, but that makes it all the more fun. Between its humor, romance, and heart, Crazy Rich Asians provides an exceptionally entertaining experience that has something for everyone. There may have been a drop-off in studio rom-coms over the last decade, but the story of Nick and Rachel is poised to bring the genre back in a big way. Truly, Crazy Rich Asians is what studio romantic comedies should be, and hopefully it will help usher in a new era for the genre, bringing more diverse stories to a revival of the big studio rom-com.
Crazy Rich Asians is now playing in U.S. theaters nationwide. It runs 120 minutes and is rated PG-13 for some suggestive content and language.
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- Crazy Rich Asians (2018) release date: Aug 15, 2018