Crazy Rich Asians (2018)
Crazy Rich Asians (2018)

Genre: Romantic Comedy Running Time: 2 hrs.

Release Date: August 15th, 2018 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Jon M. Chu Actors: Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, Gemma Chan, Awkwafina, Harry Shum Jr., Ken Jeong, Sonoya Mizuno, Chris Pang, Jimmy O. Yang, Ronny Chieng, Remy Hii, Nico Santos, Jing Lusi, Carmen Soo, Fiona Xie

 


 

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n London in 1995, Eleanor Young (Michelle Yeoh) experiences reservation issues at a hotel, receiving rather brusque treatment that hints at racial intolerances. For a solution, Eleanor calls up her husband, who purchases the entire building with a single phone call. It’s a demonstration of her limitless wealth, her significant connections, and the ease with which money handles all predicaments. It’s also supposed to shed some light on Eleanor as a character (an opening quote seems to suggest that Chinese in-laws are more problematic than the act of conquering civilizations), though this eventually goes against sensible behaviors; one would think that she would recognize the discomfort of ill treatment from strangers, and adopt an attitude above such hostilities, rather than dwelling on petty revenge to pass down through the generations.

In 2018, Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) works as an economics professor at NYU, where she uses gaming theories to instruct students on how to outwit opponents. After class, she meets up with boyfriend Nick Young (Henry Golding), whom she’s been dating for a year. When he suggests that they journey together to Singapore, where his family resides, to attend the wedding of his best friend (Chris Pang as Colin), she readily agrees. But much to her dismay, everybody seems to know about the event, throwing her into a sudden whirlwind of gossip. With a montage of colorful graphics that dance across the screen, the social media universe gawks at this mystery girl; after all, she’ll be attending the biggest wedding in all of the Malaysian islands.

As it turns out, Nick harbors a sizable secret: he’s a member of one of the most affluent families in the republic. Curiously, during the year they dated, he never bothered to mention to Rachel just how influential and renowned he is. And because he works out at an unkempt gym, carries a Jamba Juice card in his wallet, and shares Rachel’s Netflix account, she never suspects his illustriousness. When she finally meets his family, she’s in for a shock; although, it’s equally as surprising that her friend from college, played by Awkwafina (who gets all the best lines), also lives in a mansion and has ludicrous sums of money at her disposal. “These pajamas are fancier than any of my real clothes!”

Nick is an uncommon, unsympathetic love interest; he doesn’t talk about his business, which feels like an unforgivable deception. And since Rachel wasn’t aware of it, this begs the question as to why she’s willing to jump through so many hoops for his affections. In the same vein as the plethora of Cinderella-type fairy tale romances (including “Twilight” and “Fifty Shades of Grey” [but without vampires or bondage]), a normal girl is drawn into the ultra-lavish lifestyle of the rich and famous. And yet, she’s far superior to her conquest, whose “Meet the Parents”-styled conglomeration of judgmental family members have no interest in welcoming her to their clan. In fact, Eleanor is prepared to do just about anything to see that her son doesn’t end up with Rachel – primarily due to the belief that the girl’s upbringing in America will cause her to value individual accomplishments over outmoded filial responsibilities and dedication to child-rearing and kitchen-tending.

Plenty has already been said about “Crazy Rich Asians’” casting, which becomes the first major American production in more than twenty years to feature almost exclusively Asian actors. But what of its artistic merits and storytelling competency? Ultimately, it’s an overly familiar plot, full of generic romance, stereotypes, and spot-on jabs about the United States. Lashings of comic relief populate the picture, which definitely help the overabundance of characters and subplots and reiteration, proving particularly hilarious when contributed by Nico Santos as the “rainbow sheep of the family,” Jimmy O. Yang as a groomsman, the recognizable Ken Jeong, and Awkwafina – who lands the only severe expletive in a moment of comic gold.

It’s an uphill battle, however, to complement the bland drama of culture clashes, foreign traditions, elitist snobbery (it’s terribly easy to despise the super rich), rivalry, and jealousy. Even the soap opera melodrama takes a backseat to the fancy cars, decadent parties, private islands, shopping sprees, gilded palaces, and beauty pageant contestants. The nonstop excesses certainly live up to the picture’s title. The notes on parental obsessions over shaping their children’s lives, the valuing of reputation over happiness, and the dangers of falling in love with a momma’s boy similarly can’t compete with overlong sequences of glitz and glamor. Nevertheless, the finale packs a wallop, utilizing reappearing visual references and further laughs for a genuine sense of satisfaction.

– Mike Massie

  • 6/10