Crazy Rich Asians review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
To label Crazy Rich Asians as a mere breezy romantic comedy with an Asian appeal would be a gross understatement. Here is a film that goes out of its way to be more than a familiar and standard path of guy meets girl with a judgemental family looming. Rarely do romantic comedy come looking so gorgeous, feeling so genuine, and unbelievably funny that the film is almost a throwback to the more decadent love stories of old Hollywood, where meaty stories came with a decadent dressing and infectious charm. It’s not just any date movie; it’s the ultimate date movie, delicious enough to entice even the most jaded towards the genre.
It all starts with the couple of Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) and Nick Young (Henry Golding) being such a genuine pair, she an American-Chinese and he an English-Chinese. They have an undeniable chemistry where it’s clear they’re destined to be together. Standing in their way, however, is Nick’s incredibly wealthy family. They essentially own Singapore and when their family has a wedding, it’s nothing short of the Royal Wedding in terms of theatrics. Rachel doesn’t know about this side of the Young family until she boards the plane bound for Singapore, noticing that Nick has access to first class. The Young family, however, is already well aware of Rachel before she even sets foot on the property, thanks to the snooping family members that gossip about whether or not Rachel is good for the young heir Nick.
Rachel is in for many surprises when she arrives in Singapore. The city itself is a dreamy wonderland of towering skyscrapers, vibrant lights, spacious venues, and the more irresistible of food. Even the airport astounds her for having an aquarium and a movie theater, a far cry from what she’s experienced at JFK. Nick’s family’s home is undeniably the grandest of locations in the country, existing as a golden kingdom with a wondrous garden of rare beauty. And yet the family still finds a way to one-up themselves with one of the most unforgettable wedding ceremonies, complete with grassy seats and an aisle of water for the bride to walk down.
The family is all smiles for Rachel, hiding their true feelings which only come out in whispers and closed doors. While the other girls seem accepting of her, she’s in for a rude bedroom present akin to The Godfather that make their distaste clear. More open with her disapproval is Nick’s strict and refined mother Eleanor Sung-Young (Michelle Yeoh), favoring tradition and family over personal passions. Not keen on the family line being spoiled by American traits, she does her best to gently push away Rachel. And once she does some more snooping into Rachel’s past, she begins to shove.
Helping Rachel find someone to confide in during this trip is her old college pal, the also wealthy Goh Peik Lin, played by a blonde-haired Awkwafina. She is far more than just a supporting role, eating every single scene she occupies with a spoon to be the breakout comedic hit of the movie. Consider that her father is played by the always Ken Jeong and she still manages to topple him for jokes and energy, despite Jeong’s funny line to his kids not eating their chicken nuggets; “There are starving people in America who don’t have any food.” Armed with over-the-top fashion, a rich Southern accent, and an electricity to her behavior that makes her the ultimate friend you’d want to go anywhere with.
Even when armed with more than enough beauty and hilarity to be a great time, Crazy Rich Asian becomes so much more with its unconventional storytelling with the generational and cultural divide. Rather than being a predictable path of Rachel and Nick deciding if they really want to be together, it’s more on Rachel to make the ultimate choice, deciding if its worth it to go against the wishes of Nick’s family to marry him. Nick’s onboard 100% and so it’s up to Rachel to make the tougher choices. And where other romantic comedies descend into harsh pranks and slapstick to get back at the judgy family, Rachel takes the high road of grace and kindness to be savage in her quest for love. All of this combines to make Crazy Rich Asians one of the best movies I’ve seen this summer and a romantic comedy destined to go down as a classic.