Review: Crazy Rich Asians

Directed by: Jon M. Chu
Written by: Peter Chiarelli, Adele Lim
Starring: Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, Gemma Chan, Awkwafina, Ken Jeong
Released: August 30, 2018
Grade: B+

Crazy Rich Asians
It’s a fantasy that has been played out in numerous books and movies.  A person falls in love with someone who they think has a simple, ordinary background.  Lo and behold, they discover they are insanely rich or a part of a royal family.  In the case of Rachel Chu (Wu), her suspicions are aroused when her boyfriend, Nick (Golding), takes her on a trip from Singapore to meet his family and attend a friend’s wedding.

As they arrive at the airport, they are greeted by a personal concierge before being escorted into their first-class suite.  It comes as a surprise to Rachel who had brought Tupperware meals from home for the flight!  It’s at this point when Nick confesses to ruse and reveals that his family is “crazy rich”.  It’s something that he wanted to keep from Rachel during their romantic year together in New York City because he didn’t want it to affect their relationship.

The first half of Crazy Rich Asians is a celebration of decadence and extravagance.  They attend a lavish pre-wedding party where Rachel has the chance to meet corporate heavyweights, movie stars and fashion icons.  Rachel’s effervescent, not-so-wealthy friend (Awkwafina) scores a late invite and spends the whole night walking around with a stunned look on her face.  The bucks and bachelorette parties offer more of the same with no cost being spared.

The knives come out in the second half and tone takes a noticeable shift.  Nick’s influential mother, Eleanor (Yeoh), has been sizing Rachel up from the moment she first walked through the door.  It’s clear that she doesn’t think Rachel is a worthy enough match for her son and so she lays a few traps to help tear them apart.  She’s not the only one with that view.  Given Nick’s reputation as one of the world’s most appealing bachelors, there are other women who are keen to have a crack before he’s officially “off the market”.

Crazy Rich Asians could be described as a formulaic romantic comedy (which it kind of is) but that doesn’t tell the true story of its value in this cinematic landscape.  It’s the first big studio movie to come out of the United States in 25 years with a cast that predominantly Asian and Asian-American.  It’s a huge milestone given they’re a group that make up more than 5% of the American population.  Those behind the idea are now the ones who are “crazy rich”.  The film was shot on a budget of just $30 million and, having topped the box-office charts for two consecutive weeks, it’s on track to make more than $100 million in the United States alone.

It’s easy to see the appeal.  Director Jon M. Chu (Now You See Me 2) has pulled together a terrific cast who breathe much life into their strong characters.  Constance Wu has a fiery, take-no-nonsense charm as Rachel.  Henry Golding has a relaxed, suave disposition as Nick.  Michelle Yeoh brings nuance to the role of the mother and while some may see her as a simple, interfering villain, others will appreciate her complex mindset.

There aren’t too many surprises in terms of story but this is still fun, engaging and entertaining.  I’m thrilled to see it being soaked up by a wide audience.  More please.