“Crazy Rich Asians” is a conventional romantic comedy film cheerfully flaunting many clichés and stereotypes with some fresh air of change. Although its story and characters are not so far from your average Asian TV soap drama, the movie distinguishes itself as, according to Wikipedia, the first major Hollywood studio film to feature a majority Asian American cast in a modern setting since “The Joy Luck Club” (1993), and it is pretty amusing to observe how its interesting cultural mix works to generate a number of humorous moments for good laughs.
In the beginning, we meet Rachel Chu (Constance Wu), a young Chinese American woman who has been quite content with the current state of her life. While she is a promising professor teaching economics at New York University, she also has a handsome Singaporean boyfriend named Nick Young (Henry Golding), and she is certainly excited when they are going to Singapore for attending his friend’s upcoming wedding and meeting his family, about whom he has rarely talked for some reason.
Well, it turns out that Nick’s family is one of the richest families in Singapore, and Rachel soon comes to behold how rich and famous his family is. When she and Nick get on a plane to Singapore, they are instantly taken to the first-class area, and she naturally becomes more curious about his family. Not long after they arrive in Singapore, she visits her old college friend Goh Peik Lin (Awkwafina), and Peik Lin, whose family is also quite wealthy although not being as rich as Nick’s family, enthusiastically informs her of everything she needs to know about Nick’s family.
Along with Peik Lin, Rachel goes to an annual evening party held at Nick’s family house, and she is impressed a lot by how big and luxurious the house looks while also quite overwhelmed by many various family members and friends Nick introduces to her one by one. Although she makes a rather embarrassing mistake at one point, she presents herself mostly well in front of Nick’s grandmother, and she becomes a little more comfortable than before.
However, Rachel still cannot help but feel awkward as being surrounded by people far wealthier than her, and she comes to sense that she is not so welcomed by some of them as a woman who captures the heart of a man who is expected to be the head of the Young family someday. When she attends the bridal shower along with many rich women, she soon finds herself ostracized and humiliated by some of these women, but she is not easily daunted by that, and she also fortunately comes to befriend Astrid (Gemma Chan), who is one of Nick’s numerous cousins and has been going through a difficult time due to her estranged relationship with her husband.
However, there is someone who looks too formidable for Rachel, and that is none other than Nick’s mother Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh). Right from their first encounter, Rachel discerns that Eleanor does not like her much, and Eleanor does not hide that at all while steadily maintaining her unflappable appearance. As a woman who once fought hard for gaining the approval from her husband’s family, she may sympathize with Rachel to some degrees, but she coldly judges that Rachel is not good enough for her son, and we are not so surprised by her heartless tactic later in the story.
I am sure that many of you can easily guess how the story ends, but the screenplay by Peter Chiarelli and Adele Lim, which is based on the novel of the same name by Kevin Kwan, smoothly glides from one predictable narrative point to another, and the movie keeps engaging us with its vibrant style and personality. I must point out that the movie often looks excessive with its many broad moments, but many of these moments are funny and entertaining on the whole, and we come to go along with its rowdy and colorful mood even though we can see through its many artificial aspects.
Furthermore, it is refreshing to observe many genre conventions in the movie getting enlivened by its racial/cultural setting, and its main cast members bring considerable life and personality to their respective archetype characters. While likable as a smart and strong heroine we come to root for, Constance Wu balances her performance well between comedy and drama, and she certainly gets good chuckles from us when her character tries many different dresses before attending the wedding of Nick’s friend. As looking sexy and charming as required, Henry Golding is equally fine in his role, and he and Wu quickly establish their characters’ close relationship right from their first scene via their unaffected chemistry.
The other substantial cast members surrounding Wu and Golding also have each own moment to shine. While Awkwafina, who previously drew our attention via her lively supporting turn in “Ocean’s Eight” (2018), demonstrates here again that she is a talented comedy performer, Ken Jeong provides some small laughs as Peik Lin’s busybody father, and Nico Santos and Gemma Chan are effective as more generous members of the Young family. Exuding authority and dignity as much as we can expect from her, Michelle Yeoh is commanding to say the least, and she clearly enjoys her every juicy moment in the film.
“Crazy Rich Asians” is directed by Jon M. Chu, who did a good job of making his film look slick and stylish as demanded. Although it is not something as powerful as “The Joy Luck Club”, the movie may lead to better things in the future considering its considerable box office success in US, and I am certainly looking forward to that.