2018 is a big year for representation for film, and Crazy Rich Asians is one of the main reasons for that distinction. With an entirely Asian main cast, John M. Chu and company took a gamble by walking away from a lucrative deal from Netflix for a theatrical release. But, in my humble opinion, that gamble paid off mightily, leading to a delightful feature film that many across the globe are going ga-ga over.
The following review will be spoiler free.
Directed By: Jon M. Chu
Written By: Peter Chiarelli and Adele Lim
Starring: Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, Gemma Chan, Harry Shum Jr., Awkwafina, Sonoya Mizuno, and Ken Jeong
Rachel (Wu) and Nick (Golding) have been dating for some time now, and Nick finally feels comfortable taking Rachel back east to Singapore to meet his family. But there’s one catch: Nick and his family are incredibly rich. In fact, they’re one of the wealthiest families in all of Asia, and Nick is one of Asia’s most sought-after bachelors.
Caught off guard by this news, Rachel is thrown into a world full of shallow, wealthy people who consistently look down on her, including Nick’s mother (Yoeh). With nothing but her wit and will, Rachel must fight back and prove to everyone that she is worthy to date (and eventually marry) Nick.
Crazy Rich Asians is a landmark achievement for mainstream film. How often do we get to see an all-Asian cast in a blockbuster movie, distributed by a major studio like Warner Bros.?
However, this feat almost didn’t happen as you see it today. Warner Bros. won the distribution rights to the film after a heated bidding war with Netflix, which offered the creators a movie trilogy with complete creative control and upfront seven-figure payouts to each stakeholder in the project. Jeez, Netflix, how much money do you actually have?
But Chu and Kevin Kwan (the writer of novels of which this movie is based) decided against the lucrative Netflix deal.
Why? Because they wanted to make a cultural impact that would happen with Crazy Rich Asians getting a wide release in theaters. And luckily for them, the movie is performing quietly nicely already in its theatrical run.
Asian Culture Blends Wonderfully into the Narrative
There’s a common argument made among naysayers of Crazy Rich Asians and other movies that embrace their diverse cast and stories: “Critics only like it because of its diversity.”
I’m sure there’s plenty of people in this world that think that way, but this movie is so much more than that. The culture is blended into this movie in such a way that it spices up what would have been deemed “original” in other movies with similar storytelling goals. The Asian influence of Crazy Rich Asians casts every character in a different light. From the overbearing mother to the overeager friend, the vastly different set of circumstances in this particular story takes all of those beats and repackages them. It’s a different side to those characters that makes everything exceedingly interesting. So yes, Crazy Rich Asians succeeds because it is diverse, but it doesn’t rest on that fact and lazily trot out Asian actors to sleepwalk through this story.
The direction from John M. Chu relishes in its excess. From the lavish displays of food to gaudy party decorations, Crazy Rich Asians is a tour through the land of excess. Chu has such a handle on the way this film looks. Realistically, you could watch the movie with the sound off and still be riveted. There’s too much craftsmanship here to toss Crazy Rich Asians aside as a hollow call for more diversity in Hollywood.
Serious Heart and Emotion Help Crazy Rich Asians Succeed
Here’s the frontrunner for the most obvious statement in this article: Crazy Rich Asians is a romantic comedy (cue gasps from the studio audience). As such, there’s a few things that it absolutely had to get right. Namely, the core relationship between Constance Wu and Henry Golding’s characters as well as the opposition to their everlasting happiness (in this case, Michelle Yoeh’s character and the shallow, vapid people who hang around the family).
One of the things I truly admired about the union between Rachel Chu and Nick Young is that, by all accounts, it’s pretty perfect. They’re great for each other in every way, lifting each other up with unwavering love and affection. Sure, they have a few disagreements along the way, yet they always sit down and talk it out like the civilized, smart people that they are — there’s no silly misunderstanding that changes the way that they think about each other; it’s more about getting everyone around them to accept their love.
And that’s where Michelle Yeoh comes into the picture, and boy is she an amazing ice queen! Yeoh riffs of the stereotypical Asian tiger mom character with ease, placing Constance Wu’s character into a crying fit with a mere unemotional, cold turn of phrase. Amazingly, the movie spends much time with her, developing her character beyond just an overprotective mother that dislikes Rachel for nebulous reasons. You learn of her upbringing and some of the tragic elements of the culture in which she grew up. One could even make the argument that the movie is about her growth as a mother and person.
Crazy Rich Asians Could Have Used a Bit of Trimming
Crazy Rich Asians has an approximate runtime of about two hours, which isn’t necessarily an issue on its own. But there’s some obvious fat that could have been trimmed off this story, especially in a side plot that doesn’t exactly link into the main story or elevate it greatly. Chu is a good enough director for this piece of the puzzle to come off as a sweet, heartfelt diversion that many will find quite enjoyable, but it’s still a diversion nonetheless.
Crazy Rich Asians has so many magical moments that’ll bring a smile (and possibly tears) to your face, but I found that the movie overstayed its welcome juuuuuuust a bit. An altered cut that runs about twenty minutes shorter might have been a damn near perfect romantic comedy for modern times.
As it becomes a bit unwieldy, it’s almost as if the screenwriter let out a gasp, exclaiming, “wait, I need to end this movie sometime soon!” What follows is a somewhat abrupt third act that is catapulted forward by a somewhat lazy trope that comes out of relative obscurity. Admittedly, the film wraps up in a beautifully emotional subversion of the rom-com genre, but the last few steps of the journey to get there are a little far-fetched.
An overall delight, Crazy Rich Asians surpasses the notion that is merely “important” due to its subject matter and delivers an undeniably entertaining story that easily tugs on the heartstrings.
Yes, there’s unquestionably some clichés of the rom-com genre sprinkled into the film, but John M. Chu directs the film with such sincerity and spirit that these familiar beats never feel tired — just incredibly sweet. We need more heartfelt, light films in mainstream cinema!
Thank you for reading! What are you thoughts on Crazy Rich Asians? Comment down below!
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