3.5/5 stars (Above Average)
“Crazy Rich Asians” is a pretty big deal. Not only is it a mainstream film promoting positive representation of Asian culture, but it is also a funny, sweet, and sometimes thought-provoking look at the bonds of family. Anyone expecting this to be a turn-your-brain-off yuk fest will surely be disappointed, but for people who go in with an open mind, “Crazy Rich Asians” should be a mostly satisfying experience.
Economics professor Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) and her boyfriend Nick Young (newcomer Henry Golding) seemingly have the perfect relationship. Rachel is a hard-working middle-class Chinese-American, and Nick is secretly an ultrarich guy who chooses to live frugally rather than embrace his family’s lifestyle.
This secret is blown when Nick is named best man at a friends’ wedding, choosing this function to introduce Rachel to his family. Now, Rachel must learn to mingle with the disapproving Youngs, especially, Nick’s tightly traditional mother (Michelle Yeoh), with supportive best friend Goh Peik Lin (a sometimes annoying Awkwafina) in tow.
“Crazy Rich Asians” mostly works. Many of the characters come off as flawed and relatable human beings rather than easy stereotypes for us to laugh at. Constance Wu and Henry Golding have great romantic chemistry, and Michelle Yeoh provides Nick’s mother with more depth than initially expected. I understand where she’s coming from in her dislike of Rachel and can sympathize with it while still disliking her, a tricky feat to balance. The soundtrack is also solid and some stylish visuals kept my engagement when present without overstaying their welcome.
On the negative side, Goh Peik Lin feels more like a borderline ghetto caricature than a regular person, along with a flamboyantly gay cousin Oliver (Nico Santos). The actors do well, but I don’t understand why a movie that is so good at representing Asians as regular people would stoop to those stereotypes for comedy’s sake. Goh Peik’s brother also takes pictures of Rachel creepily in an uncomfortable running gag given the current political climate (which I would love to stop thinking about at the movies). However, these issues did not detract too much from my enjoyment of the film as a funny and occasionally resonant romantic dramedy.
All in all, “Crazy Rich Asians” is an enjoyable romantic dramedy with mostly solid performances, a respect for Asian culture, and a great step forward for proper representation of minorities onscreen. Jon M. Chu’s stylish direction helps the slower moments, the soundtrack is toe-tapping, and the characters have unexpected layers. However, Awkwafina and the gay character’s stereotypical portrayals do not fit in this movie, and, while not film-breaking, keep it from being one of the best of the year. Despite these problems, I still recommend this film. See it.
Rated PG-13 For some suggestive content and language
Images courtesy of IMPawards.com and IMDB.com