The tale of a common girl unknowingly meeting a prince and falling in love with him is a universal story. It plays to our hopes that maybe, just maybe, that could be us; we could be the rags-to-riches tale everyone talks about. For Rachel Chu, an economics professor at NYU, this fairytale is anything but when she discovers her boyfriend, fellow NYU professor Nick Young is the heir to a massive fortune. In CRAZY RICH ASIANS, director Jon M. Chu takes this age-old tale and, using a full cast of Asian actors, creates a film so refreshing and new it deserves the title of rom-com film of the summer.

Nick and Rachel in the CRAZY RICH ASIANS movie poster.
A couple so sweet they’ll rot your teeth. | Image: Warner Bros.

Based on the international best selling novel by Kevin Kwan, CRAZY RICH ASIANS tells the story of Rachel Chu. Played by FRESH OFF THE BOAT’S Constance Wu, the film follows Rachel as she travels to Singapore with her boyfriend Nick Young (played by Henry Golding) to attend his best friend’s wedding. Unbeknownst to Rachel, Nick is basically the Prince Harry of Asia. Rachel must then navigate Singapore’s social elites and Nick’s family who look down on their relationship.

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The Silken Road Less Traveled

CRAZY RICH ASIANS is the first film to focus on a distinctly Asian-American story since 1993’s THE JOY LUCK CLUB. The film touches upon the struggles of being an overseas Asian as well as some of the cultural differences between Americans and Asians. It does well to not isolate viewers who are unfamiliar with Asian culture by grounding itself in Rachel’s character.

Rachel grew up under the American dream, a concept everyone is generally familiar with. She is, for the most part, fairly westernized, something her own mother, a Chinese immigrant, points out. Her struggle to assimilate with Singaporean culture would likely be no different if you were to replace her character with a white girl with an East Asian Studies degree. From the outdoor food market and old Peranakan houses to the more culturally specific act of making dumplings as a family, the film fully immerses its viewers into the world.

Not once does the film stray into the harmful caricatures often seen in Hollywood films like BLADE RUNNER 2049 and DOCTOR STRANGE. Instead, we see snippets of Western culture pushed in the most natural ways. This allows for viewers who might not be of Asian-descent to grasp on to the things they find familiar.

Colin Koo and Araminta Lee laughing of chicken satay in Crazy Rich Asians.
They may be rich, but street food always beats restaurant food. | Image: Warner Bros.

CRAZY RICH ASIANS manages to jump language barriers by using Mandarin versions of well-known American hits throughout the film. My favorite example of this is when the film reaches its climax, a Mandarin-version of “Yellow” by Coldplay. The tune, and the others like it, is immediately recognizable. So although the music is in a language many might not understand, a person’s familiarity with the original song itself and its lyrics fill in many of the cultural gaps within the movie.

Stellar Performances

CRAZY RICH ASIANS’ casting is, in my opinion, one of the greatest gifts to mankind. As a fan of the original books, I couldn’t have asked for better casting. But with the future of Asian-American films possibly riding on their shoulders, how did they fare? Absolutely fantastic actually. Constance Wu owns it as Rachel, embodying the girl-next-door feel expected of romantic comedies. But her Rachel is sincere. It’s the little reactions, such as the way she reaches for Nick when anxious, that really sells her love for him.

Henry Golding’s Nick is the perfect compliment to her character. It’s hard to believe that CRAZY RICH ASIANS is the first film he’s ever auditioned for. But as the leading man, he holds his own against the big name actors and actresses around him. Golding captures the simplicity of Nick’s character. He’s humble, doesn’t care much for money, and just wants to be with the woman of his dreams.

Paired with Golding’s charm, Nick becomes more than the character written by Kevin Kwan.

Michelle Yeoh as Eleanor Young on the staircase at Tyserall Park in Crazy Rich Asians
Don’t let Yeoh’s soft features fool you, she’s as fierce as the tiger behind her. | Image: Warner Bros.

Michelle Yeoh‘s Eleanor Young is one I specifically want to highlight. Yeoh’s performance captures so many nuances of motherhood, you’d think she raised Henry Golding herself. It’s downright terrifying at times. But while others might write off Eleanor as being overly traditional, it’s important to look at the sheer complexity of her character, made possible by Yeoh’s show-stealing performance. Yes, Eleanor is scary, but the love she has for her son is something anyone with an Asian mother will be familiar with. Yeoh is known for being an action star, but she absolutely owns it as Nick’s mother, proving that mothers will throw down if they need to.

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A True Rom-Com

With all the discussions of CRAZY RICH ASIANS’ history-making, it’s important to remember that it’s still just a rom-com, albeit an incredible one. It has the couple from different walks of life, the quirky best friend, the overprotective mother, and the major event that is also the true test of their relationship. It’s through these well-known elements that CRAZY RICH ASIANS thrives.

The chemistry between Golding and Wu is honestly ridiculous. Their characters’ steadfast devotion to each other makes it easy to forget that these actors aren’t together in real life. When everything points to them going their separate ways, the film reminds you that you can rely on these characters.

The risk is real between the two of them. “If Nick chooses me, he could lose his family,” Rachel tells Eleanor in a scene featured in the movie’s trailer. “And if he chose his family, he might just spend the rest of his life resenting you.” The film faces a lot of tough choices, much like the one Rachel poses to Eleanor, but if not for these hardships, the reward at the end would be nowhere near as satisfying.

Awkwafina as Goh Piek Lin in Crazy RIch Asians.
Awkwafina is definitely a comedy queen. | Image: Warner Bros.

But the real makings of a rom-com 100% come from the film’s humor and the ways it’s integrated into the movie. For CRAZY RICH ASIANS, they choose to break up tense interactions with light, heartfelt banter, making the scene feel all the more natural. But for the moments that aren’t tense, the film’s humor shines. There were multiple times when the theater filled with laughter so loud I had trouble hearing the movie. The jokes in CRAZY RICH ASIANS are so timely and relatable. But its awareness of its own place in Hollywood and its audience that make the jokes worthwhile.

Go see CRAZY RICH ASIANS!

As the first Asian-American film in a quarter of a century, it’s really important that people go out there and watch CRAZY RICH ASIANS. Even if you don’t understand 100% of all jokes, the underlying story about identity and familial ties is one everyone should recognize. There are a billion and one different reasons as to why people should watch this film, many of which are listed in this review.

Watch it if you like comedies and heart-swooning romances. Maybe you just want to see a plethora of hot men and women. Watch it if you’re Asian-American or even if you’re not. Watch it if you want to support the future of Hollywood films with Asian/Asian-American storylines. But, most importantly, watch CRAZY RICH ASIANS because its an insanely good movie. I really can’t stress that enough.

CRAZY RICH ASIANS graces theaters August 15, 2018.

Featured image via Warner Bros. Entertainment. 

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