Based on Kevin Kwan’s 2013 novel of the same name, Jon M. Chu’s romantic comedy sees Rachel (Constance Wu) accompany her boyfriend Nick (Henry Golding) to a family wedding in his native Singapore, unaware – having never been curious enough to Google him – that he’s something of a big deal back home.
As the first Hollywood studio film since 1993’s The Joy Luck Club to feature an all-Asian American cast, Crazy Rich Asians will unavoidably be talked about as a landmark film in terms of much-needed representation when it comes to Asian actors in Hollywood. And deservedly so. But it’s also a strong rom-com in its own right. It has all the recognisable trimmings of a big studio picture focusing on a meet-the-family/fish-out-of-water premise, à la My Big Fat Greek Wedding; and while there are plenty of clichéd moments, it nevertheless bypassed all the cynical parts of my brain to ultimately satisfy as one of the best mainstream rom-coms since Easy A. Even with an atrocious cover of Coldplay’s “Yellow” included in the final act.
The familiar plot machinations are elevated by a great ensemble cast, with two charismatic leads. Also noteworthy is Michelle Yeoh as Eleanor, Nick’s traditionalist mother. She makes the character threatening without ever descending into a cartoonish caricature of the monstrous soon-to-be mother-in-law, and remains one of the only thesps out there who can say “lovely to see you” and make it sound like a weighty warning not worth ignoring. Other standouts include Awkwafina, who frequently steals the show as Rachel’s best friend, and Nico Santos, who gets some of the best lines as Nick’s gay cousin Oliver.
Most impressive however is Adele Lim and Peter Chiarelli’s script, which is not only genuinely funny but also deftly addresses generational pressures and culture shocks, specifically those between traditional Chinese culture and the newer Chinese-American generation. The script provides Chu enough leeway to inject some self-awareness to the proceedings so that for every gratuitous tactic surrounding the showcasing Singapore in all its picturesque and culinary-appealing glory, there’s a counterbalance of a family story with a pulse.
Crazy Rich Asians | Directed by Jon M. Chu (US, 2018), with Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh. Starts August 23.
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