By now, it’s already very well known that Jon M. Chu’s Crazy Rich Asians marked a milestone for Hollywood as the first major motion picture in 25 years to feature a predominantly Asian cast. It’s something definitely worth celebrating. It’s also a good thing that the movie itself takes the rom-com formula and doesn’t exactly reinvent it, but makes it worthwhile again. Some of the familiar beats are just that, but there’s hardly a moment that doesn’t make you grin ear to ear.
The plot is familiar, but Jon M. Chu injects a lot of fervor into Crazy Rich Asians, bringing to light the gorgeous scenery of places such as Singapore and Malaysia, and highlighting a lot of traditional practices that are often kept off the camera in American films. One montage, in particular, focuses on a lot of the dishes that are served, and they do a better job at showing them off than your average Instagram post. Another food-related montage shows the family gathering together to make dumplings, and Chu, again, zooms in extremely close on them during the process, which just makes your mouth water during every second. If you think Chu is just showcasing food to make people salivate, that’s further from the truth. It’s to show the importance of the food in the Asian culture and to show how it brings families together.
Of course, it’s not just the close-ups of food and the incredible cinematography by Vanja Cernjul that make Crazy Rich Asians a winner. It’s also the actors in the film and the unfolding drama that showcases a clash between the extremely wealthy and those who aren’t considered as such. At the forefront of the story is Rachel Chu (Constance Wu), an economics professor at New York University. Her boyfriend is Nick Young (Henry Golding), who has been invited back to Singapore for his best friend’s wedding. They live an average life, although Rachel complains he’s almost too frugal for playing basketball at a YMCA that “smells” and uses her Netflix password.
He invites Rachel to the wedding so that she can finally meet his family. Thanks to technology, Nick’s mother, Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh), already knows that he’s bringing her along. It’s a great moment in the film in which one picture can be taken then shared amongst so many people so quickly. The text messages and notifications pop up in a quick-paced effort that showcases the bubbly tone of Crazy Rich Asians. It also shows that Nick is not just your average guy; he actually comes from a very wealthy family. He and his family are popular amongst the Asian culture. To Rachel, though, she just sees him as this wonderful individual. She doesn’t know about how well-known Nick’s family is. She’s in for a big surprise.
The story relocates to Singapore, in which Chu showcases the glitz and glamour of a very wealthy lifestyle. But there’s never a feeling that Chu is shaming those who don’t fall in the same category. It just serves more as a documentation of those who, as Nick describes it, and I’m paraphrasing, “live comfortably.” Each person is dressed very nicely and is super attractive, and they are aware of how much they make and exactly how wealthy they are. The viewer is also thrust into the lush scenery of the country, prompting for a plane ticket booking the minute the movie ends.
Once in Singapore, Rachel catches up with her old college friend, Goh Peik Lin (the scene-stealing Awkwafina). It turns out that even she and her family know of the Young family and their wealth. It’s not that the Lin family isn’t wealthy, but the Young family trumps almost everything they have.
Goh Peik Lin and Rachel arrive at a party to celebrate the day before the wedding, and this is when things get a bit tense. Rachel finally meets Eleanor, who, after one glance, immediately disapproves. You can feel it in Yeoh’s deliciously good performance.
Rachel may be Asian, but she’s Asian-American. She doesn’t belong in the same class as Nick. As described in the film, she’s what is known as a “banana”: yellow on the outside, white on the inside. On top of that, all of the women in the same class as Nick are extremely jealous of Rachel and try to push her out of the relationship.
There’s a lot to love in Crazy Rich Asians. Formulaic tropes are noticeable, but when you have a cast of extremely talented people, those issues can be quickly discarded. Prior to landing the lead role, Golding was a television host. Those unfamiliar with his work wouldn’t be able to tell. It’s as if he was born to be a dashing, leading man. He’s got the charm of actors like Cary Grant, and he and Wu have dynamite chemistry. Wu is also able to hold her own as Rachel, who serves as the fish out of water in the film. She is able to dig deep into the character and allows the viewers to see what really makes Rachel tick.
The supporting cast is comprised with a lot of talented actors as well. A lot of them are on the screen, but we get to know who they are and just how they serve the story. Quite a few are in it for comedic relief, including the great Ken Jeong, and Peter Chiarelli and Adele Lim adapt Kevin Kwan’s novel to make it so he and others are given great lines and some solid development.
The Blu-ray release for Crazy Rich Asians comes presented in 1080p high definition with a 16x9 widescreen format and a 2.4:1 aspect ratio. The transfer makes all the bright colors pop and captures the shots of food and night life exquisitely. The audio is presented in a 5.1 DTS-HD format and balances the dialogue and music quite well. The big band music that plays in the beginning and in another scene will make you want to tap your toes.
There are only a few special features that come with this release. Chu and Kwan provide a commentary track that can be listened while watching the movie. Crazy Rich Fun is a brief, behind-the-scenes look at the film with interviews from Chu, Kwan, and several cast members. There are also a few deleted scenes and a short gag reel.
Crazy Rich Asians is not just a celebration of the Asian culture, but also a throwback to the way romantic comedies were in the Golden Age of Film. From its flashy, bold-lettered intro accompanied by an infectious, big-band score by Brian Tyler, it’s almost as if Chu transported the viewers to the 1940s. The actors have terrific chemistry, and the movie zips by with beautiful scenery and excellent writing. It’s further proof that romantic comedies can still be effective, even if it doesn’t break formula.