Jon M. Chu
Based on the novel written by
Screenplay Written By
Myron I. Kerstein
Review : Rick Bentley
You’ll fall in love with ‘Crazy Rich Asians’
There have been a few good romantic comedies released in recent years: “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” “Silver linings Playbook” and “The Big Sick” to name a few. But, there’s not been that steady stream of films that made moviegoers laugh and fall in love at the same time as when Hugh Grant and Tom Hanks were helping fill theaters with their sweet and fun efforts.
“Crazy Rich Asians,” opening Aug. 15, should be the start of a new era for romantic comedies as it is a brilliantly acted, written and staged rom com that will win hearts. This is as good as anything that Grant or Hanks did during their heyday of romantic comedies.
New Yorker Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) is an accomplished and confident college professor. Her boyfriend, Nick Young (Henry Golding), invites Rachel to go with him to Singapore to attend his best friend’s wedding. The wedding is not the biggest shock. Rachel discovers her down-to-earth boyfriend is part of one of the wealthiest families in Asian and they are not open to outsiders coming into their world.
Because Rachel is an outsider, she becomes the target of family members who don’t see her as worthy and jealous women who want to take her place. Rachel is strong but the verbal and emotional assaults have her doubting her relationship with Nick along with not being sure about herself.
Wu’s character in “Crazy Rich Asians” starts strong but is worn down by the constant flow of negativity. Her ability to show both the pain of rejection and the determination to be herself no matter what others think establishes a strong half for the romantic equation.
A big acting surprise comes from Golding. Before becoming an Asian Cary Grant, he was best known for being a contestant on “The Bachelorette.” His natural charisma clearly comes through in scenes whether he’s showing his soft side with Rachel or his tough side when facing off with his demanding mother (Michelle Yeoh). The way Wu and Golding connect makes it very easy to invest in their relationship and once that commitment is made every good and bad event is heartfelt.
Director Jon M. Chu does a superb job of bringing the lavishness of Kevin Kwan’s book to life. He has created a world where if something is merely opulent, it is not even close to the rich thinking of this family. From a wild bachelor party on a barge to a wedding where the bride walks down an aisle that has been turned into a small river, the look of this movie is as lush and rich as the name suggests.
This is a great backdrop for a supporting cast that’s so strong any of them could star in their own movie. The movie is filled with elements that make it both romantic and fun – including a scene-stealing turn by Awkwafina as Rachel’s major confidant. Along with Awkwafina’s standout performance is Ken Jeong as her father. This family reflects the less glamorous part of the lifestyles of the rich and famous that is so weirdly funny the biggest flaw of “Crazy Rich Asians” is that there wasn’t enough of this bizarre brood.
Gemma Chan, who plays Astrid, Nick’s sister, provides the seriously emotional storyline that Emma Thompson provided in “Love Actually.” Her heartbreaking tale is equally as interesting as the main story. A spinoff of her life would work as well as this tale.
The romantic comedy genre isn’t easy because so many elements have to be as near perfect as possible for the audience to be engaged equally with the comedy as the romance. If the main characters, story, setting, look or pacing is even a tiny bit off center, the balance of humorous and heart-touching moments is lost. No such problems exist here.
Along with this being one of the most entertaining romantic comedies to come along in decades, there is another reason “Crazy Rich Asians” should be praised highly. It’s the first major Hollywood release since “The Joy Luck Club” in 1993 to feature a predominantly Asian cast. There has been lots of talk about a lack of diversity in movies but this is the first movie to do something major about the problems.
Under Chu’s guidance, “Crazy Rich Asians” finds the exact blend to make this not only a milestone production is diversity but a film that’s got all the elements to be universally entertaining. It’s a reminder love can really be a splendored thing.
Contact Rick Bentley at firstname.lastname@example.org