Crazy Rich Asians is a film unlike any other from 2018. In a year full of superheroes punching each other, cinematic universes, reboots, sequels and social consciousness, Crazy Rich Asians stands out because of its beautiful love story. It is a charming and sweet romantic comedy, which in and of itself is different nowadays. True romantic comedies are not all that common any more. Usually a romantic story is just thrown into an action or comedy, but that is not the case here, this a traditional romantic comedy in every way. While all of that is great, what really makes this film unique is the all-Asian cast. This is the first time Hollywood has made a film with an exclusively Asian cast in over 25 years. Not only that, it’s based on a book written by an Asian (Kevin Kwan), it was adapted for the screen by an Asian (Adele Lim, Peter Chiarelli co-wrote the film) and it was directed by an Asian director (Jon M. Chu). This is something that is long overdue but it’s also an incredible accomplishment.
The incredible accomplishment for Crazy Rich Asians goes beyond what it does for representation in Hollywood. It is truly a great film that has several universal themes that anybody can relate to. Lim and Chiarelli’s screenplay is clever, funny and has a lot of heart. When Nick Young (Henry Golding) brings his girlfriend, Rachel Chu (Constance Wu), home to Singapore for his best friend’s wedding and to meet his family, cultures clash and traditions are challenged. Rachel was raised in the United States by a single mom, so the traditional Asian customs, especially those in regards to family, are new to her. Seeing Singapore through her eyes and the families she encounters is both scary and exciting for us just as it is for her. She works as an audience surrogate for part of the film because she is a fish out of water. That is a smart disarming tactic for the non-Asian viewers. We are learning about things with her and the fish out of water comedy beats land really well because they are relatable.
The longstanding and misguided belief in Hollywood is that a film with an all minority cast won’t work for mass audiences because the audience won’t be able to connect. Crazy Rich Asians completely destroys that belief with good characters and a beautiful love story. A requirement for any film, but especially comedies, is dynamic characters. They bring the film to life and create the memorable moments that the film needs. Crazy Rich Asians is full of well-written, directed and acted characters that pop off the screen. Constance Wu and Henry Golding are the film’s leads and they are perfect for their roles. Golding is someone that I wasn’t familiar with at all, because he didn’t have any prior acting credits to his name. He gave a very good performance and it didn’t feel like his first performance at all. He was everything that the lead of a romantic comedy needs to be. He was charming, funny, fun, and is someone that women would want to be with and men would want to hang out with. Golding’s impressive performance was accompanied perfectly by Constance Wu.
Wu has more credits to her name but apart from Fresh Off the Boat she still isn’t all that known. After this performance I want to see her in everything, she was incredible as Rachel Chu. She pulled off the ‘girl next door’ character that is a staple for female leads in a romantic comedy and brought a depth and nuance to the character that made it dynamic. Those two together also had the chemistry that this film needed. They were absolutely great together and so dynamic to watch. Their love felt real and when they hit their bumps it was heartbreaking, because you want them to be together. The most important characters in any romantic comedy are the two leads, and Crazy Rich Asians casted the perfect ones.
This film is far from a two-person show; there is a deep and great cast here to support the leads. Michelle Yeoh (Eleanor Young), Gemma Chan (Astrid Young Teo), Awkwafina (Peik Lin Goh), Ken Jeong (Wye Mun Goh) and Nico Santos (Oliver T’sien) were great additions to this film and provided a lot of depth. The stars of this bunch were Awkwafina and Nico Santos. Those two brought a lot of humor to the film and brought a lot of balance to the more tense moments of the film. Both characters felt unique and different in a very important way, because of that they become the most memorable of the supporting characters. Awkwafina is having a great year and is proving herself to be someone that needs to be in more comedies. Her timing and delivery is great but what stands out is her charisma. When she is on screen she’s impossible not to watch and her energy is so big that she demands attention. She is a star and showcased that in a great way in Crazy Rich Asians.
As great as the cast and the writing is the thing that takes this film over the top is the cinematography. Cinematographer Vanja Cernjul did an excellent job shooting this film. He was able to capture the grandeur and the Young’s scale of life in Singapore. The beautiful wide shots of Singapore are breathtaking and fill the screen. There are plenty of times when you simply get lost in the beautiful shots on the screen. Crazy Rich Asians is one of the most beautiful films of the year and while the cinematography is a huge part of that, it’s only a part. The setting was well scouted and feels like a character in the story. It serves as a beautiful backdrop that continually draws attention because of how beautiful it is. The costume and production design help to create a holistic experience that is aesthetically pleasing. The wedding scene is absolutely breathtaking. There have been a lot of wedding scenes in films and this is the best one that I’ve seen. The costuming was perfect and the set was stunning. It’s a film that is full of bright colors, gorgeous clothes, incredible cars and beautiful people. Jon M. Chu was able to capture this film in a way that is unique to its premise and that made it a more full and authentic experience.
Crazy Rich Asians has everything that you would want from a film. There are great characters, funny dialogue and beautiful scenery. That foundation allows it to overcome some little mistakes. While the screenplay was good, it was a bit overstuffed. There was one plotline involving Astrid Young that felt underserved and was unsatisfying. I was interested in what was going on and the performances but it didn’t feel like it belonged in this film. This is true for a few of the supporting characters as well. A couple of the family members were too over the top and their short appearances felt forced and unnecessary. These minor setbacks are easy to forget because every other element of the film is so strong. Crazy Rich Asians is a throwback to great romantic comedies. It’s also an excellent and important film. Representation matters, and this film shows that good filmmaking shouldn’t be placed in a box.
4 out of 5 Stars
Director: Jon M. Chu Writers: Peter Chiarelli, Adele Lim based on the novel "Crazy Rich Asians" by Kevin Kwan Starring: Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, Gemma Chan, Lis Lu, Awkwafina, Ken Jeong, Kris Pang & Nico Santos Release Date: August 15th Rated: PG-13 Runtime: 2 hours Image Credit: Imdb via Warner Bros.