From the moment I heard that director Jon M. Chu was bringing Crazy Rich Asians to the big screen, I have been beside myself with excitement. As a fan of the books and an Asian American myself, it was important and surreal to me that this movie was being made. There has been a lot of hype and pressure surrounding Crazy Rich Asians and I am thrilled to say that this movie does not disappoint.
Crazy Rich Asians, based on the novel of the same name by Kevin Kwan, centers on New York couple Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) and Nick Young (Henry Golding). When Nick invites Rachel on a trip to Singapore to attend his best friend’s wedding, Rachel learns that Nick comes from one of the richest families in the country – and they’re not just rich, they’re CRAZY rich. Rachel is forced into the spotlight of this unfamiliar world and must contend with jealous women, Nick’s eccentric relatives and most of all, Nick’s disapproving mother, Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh).
Simply put, Crazy Rich Asians is a great romantic comedy that happened to star all Asians. This movie is great if you’re Asian. This movie is also great if you’re not! It revived classic rom-com tropes that we rarely see these days: boyfriend is secretly rich, the disapproving mother, the hilarious best friend sidekick, girlfriend gets a “makeover”, etc. etc. etc., but Crazy Rich Asians puts its own fresh spin on it. It’s funny, it’s emotional, it’s exciting. Its overt “Asianness” isn’t a gimmick that’s shoved into our faces – it’s a cultural subtext that exists simply because these characters do. These Asians exist and this is their fun romantic comedic story. Simple as that.
The visuals translated well from book to screen. The extravagant locations, the lavish clothing, and even the street food eats – this movie was an opulent feast for the eyes. Chu’s use of light and color stimulated the senses and served the exciting atmosphere that this story requires. Another touch I loved was the use of Chinese versions of iconic American pop songs. It added an element that felt both familiar and new.
From the major characters to the minor, this cast is phenomenal. Constance Wu has proven her acting chops and comedic timing in Fresh off the Boat, and she shines even more in this film. She and Henry Golding have great chemistry and Henry himself portrays the dazzling “Asian Bachelor” effortlessly. Michelle Yeoh’s powerful presence was perfect for the intimidating mother of the Young family. Awkwafina as Rachel’s close friend Peik Lin is hysterical every second she is on-screen. I could sing my praises about every actor in this film. The standout for me, however, was Gemma Chan. Astrid is my favorite character in the books and Gemma portrayed her stunning elegance and poise to a T. Gemma’s star is surely rising, especially with an upcoming role in Captain Marvel. Keep your eyes on her!
This can understandably be considered an abridged adaptation of the book but its portrayals of the characters and story were true in its essence, save for changes to Astrid’s storyline. It’s not something I would complain about as it gave Gemma Chan more to shine with in this role, but her story arc takes a very different trajectory in the following two books. If they were to make a sequel to this movie, it would be interesting to see how they reconcile her story – and it’s not offbase to talk sequels, considering there’s a tease of a character fans of the books will recognize!
An overarching theme throughout the movie was that of “Otherness.” Rachel has to navigate her way through this society she knows nothing about, in more ways than one. The clear conflict from the outset is socioeconomic status and class, but a narrative that ran true through the entire story was that of being Asian-American vs. Asian. This is so rarely portrayed in media, and it’s a struggle that I and most Asian-Americans know personally. However, it is also one that everyone can identify with on a base level. Being an outsider or cast out is not a new concept in film or in life. You don’t have to be Asian to empathize with and root for Rachel and that therein lies the core of this film.
Crazy Rich Asians is just one story – the bar set for representation doesn’t begin or end here. Cinema and media has a long way to go, but this is a big step in a positive direction. We can support Crazy Rich Asians but we must also support and amplify all Asian American films that do not get the same mainstream support. I hope that this movie can be a stepping stone for more stories to be told.
All in all, Crazy Rich Asians was incredibly fun, visually stunning, and kept me smiling even as I left the theater (and when I wasn’t smiling, I was laughing or crying)! I will most definitely be seeing it again.
Check out Crazy Rich Asians, in theaters August 15!