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There’s something to be said and admired about really and truly going for it…
Make no mistake; Crazy Rich Asians knows exactly what it is trying to be. While it navigates the road of the narrative with some logic holes and moments of head slapping filmmaking, it ultimately succeeds in being a generous helping of extravagant, endearing nonsense that will leave audiences lapping it up and wanting for more.
We meet native New Yorker Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) as she accompanies her long time boyfriend, Nick Young (Henry Golding), to his best friend’s wedding in Singapore. Excited about visiting Asia for the first time but nervous about meeting Nick’s family, Rachel is unprepared to learn that Nick has neglected to mention a few key details about his life. It turns out that he is not only the scion of one of the country’s wealthiest families but also one of its most sought-after bachelors. Being on Nick’s arm puts a target on Rachel’s back, with jealous socialites and, worse, Nick’s own disapproving mother (Michelle Yeoh) taking aim. And it soon becomes clear that while money can’t buy love, it can definitely complicate things.
The bar for the rom-com has been both raised and lowered with Crazy Rich Asians because while the comedy does admittedly get a little broad and occasionally tactless at times, it still delivers a heartfelt story that can be accepted across gender and race lines while being perhaps the best tourism video for Singapore that has ever been produced as we see the surroundings for these characters absolutely dripping in shiny opulence.
Helmer Jon M Chu was actually an inspired choice to take the reins on this film, having coming off the equally as flashy Now You See Me 2 and multiple entries in the Step Up franchise he has an incredibly deep background in doing flashy on a moderate budget and he comes through in spades here crafting something that plays somewhere between the TV show Entourage and a live action Disney princess adventure. The film looks unquestionably exceptional from beginning to end as it leans on its style aspects in exactly the ways that it is supposed to.
The narrative chugs along at a decent clip and while it makes some questionable character decisions and allows plot points to hinge on them, the film wins us over with charm spilling out of every single place that it possibly can as it’s positive life message about having true belief in your own self worth can overcome almost anything. It’s so flashy in its delivery which causes things to get mildly sloppy but it successfully plays to our innate human nature of being drawn to shiny things…and boy is this movie shiny.
Constance Wu steps up to the plate as our heroine Rachel with admirable charm as she successfully carries what she needs to do in this film, straddling the line between awkward and strong all at the same time. While it’s not exactly the strongest performance, she more than holds her own showing she’s capable of some bigger and better roles. Henry Golding in his debut film (?!?) was incredibly charismatic and charming holding up his end of the story. The writing in his character left him some gaping holes in logic and intelligence but he overcomes then with a general likeability as we see him try and extricate himself from the mess that is his family. They allow us to root for him, because we can actually relate to him because he’s just an average guy who wants to build a life with the woman that he loves…even though he’s a little naive to the reactions that happen once he brings Rachel home after being away for so long.
Sure there are some quality supporting roles since Awkwafina is slowly making herself into a comedic star, Gemma Chan shows flashes of being able to carry a movie make in the West (i.e. North American) and Ronny Chieng gets to branch away from the Daily Show desk but there is one genuine star of this loaded ensemble film.
The incomparable Michelle Yeoh as matriarch Eleanor Young plays the role on a number of subtle and brilliant levels. She has to be the protective and loving mother, the tortured matriarch and the absolute master of this world of perfection that has been built around her. Yeoh plays it all with some many subtle levels and nuance to her performance that she ends up being the kind of character that we as an audience know we should dislike but honestly can’t keep our eyes off of either. She’s just that good in the film.
Picture and sound quality on the Blu-Ray are top notch as you’d expect and the special features include some deleted scenes, a behind the scenes featurette, a gag reel and a feature length commentary track from director Jon M Chu and novelist Kevin Kwan.
OK, Crazy Rich Asians is the kind of film that quite frankly isn’t afraid to get all that ridiculous…but if you’re OK with that, it also makes for a fun night at the movies.