It was with a lot of hesitation that I saw this movie. The flood of positive reviews and hype surrounding it felt cataclysmic, also factoring in that I have never watched a movie with a full Asian cast before ever in my life. So I had no idea what to expect, this film delivers a tired and cliche story and brightens it up with gorgeous locations, mouth watering food, side splitting comedy and finally elevating the brilliant Constance Wu to movie goddess status (seriously if you don’t watch Fresh Off The Boat, you need to!)
The story follows Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) who is an economics professor at NYU meeting her long boyfriends Nick Young (Henry Golding) family in their hometown of Singapore. All the expectations and complications have been explored in many other films before it and there is nothing different here. There is an epic food market montage when the couple first arrive in Singapore that will have you googling the closest authentic asian restaurant. A quick history lesson of how this island came to be home to the crazy rich is laid out by Peik Lin (Awkwafina) one of the most hilarious and endearing characters in the movie. To this effect Lin’s family who consist of her father Wyne (Ken Jeong) and mother Neenah (Chieng Mun Koh) also bring solid laughs and reprise when the movie starts taking itself a little too seriously. In addition to this Oliver T’sen (Nico Santos) as the rainbow sheep of the family and Astrid (Gemma Chan) also stand out as scene stealers in their own right.
Through all of these talented cast Nick’s mother Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh) is the standout here, her presence is terrifying whenever she sets her sights on Wu, and can easily switch to maternal when it comes to Nick. It’s a fearless performance that keeps you glued to the very end. Yeoh has captivated me before with performances in Memoirs Of A Geisha and the Kung Fu Panda series, but this is the standout of her career.
Newcomer Golding delivers a passable performance and won me over the more times he ripped his shirt open or had a long shower. There is no denying Golding is a great leading man, albeit overly fantasied in this movie.
Story wise as previously mentioned it is all the tropey stuff you know is going to be thrown at you. Girl meets guy in New York, travels to meet his family, finds out he is crazy rich and must win the approval of his family or risk alienating him from them. This story really does throw everything at you, the difference here however is that it is done with such energy and passion, you cannot help but forgive it.
The music is perfect with Mandarin versions of Coldplay’s Yellow and Material Girl by Madonna just to name a few. The score is also fantastic and matches the tone of the film.
Director Jon M Chu is new to romantic comedy with previous films like GI Joe : The Rise Of Cobra and Now You See Me 2. These movies all have intense scenes and this film continues that tradition. The opulence of the wedding to the chaos of the food markets to shopping for million dollar earrings. The cinematography is so spectacular, it is worth the price of admission alone.
A lot needs to be said for the humour in this movie, the rapid jokes that provide genuine laugh out loud moments mask the insecurities of the characters, and allows the film to reveal more of their human side and justify why they are there. It is something that a lot of movies in this genre get wrong over and over and it is a delight to see Chu use this to his advantage.
Overall Crazy Rich Asians surprised me, it moved me, it entertained me and made me forget how shitty the world is for two hours. I was swept up in the romance of it all and was delighted to be whisked away to a part of the world I had never explored before. The rich and vibrant world helped it feel real while still being relatable. Wu and Yeoh are the standouts of the film giving career defining performances, while the supporting cast also earn their stripes in what could have easily been a paint by numbers film. The good news is that a sequel has already been greenlit and is also based on the novel of the same name. Crazy Rich Asians is the My Big Fat Greek Wedding of 2018, hopefully though without the disappointing TV show and too little too late sequel. You can catch the film in cinemas now.
Review by Alaisdair Leith.