It’s been a quarter-century since Hollywood made a movie with a predominantly Asian cast (The Joy Luck Club), so the new romantic comedy Crazy Rich Asians is more than overdue. And it seems to be part of the seismic changes that Hollywood has been undergoing since #OscarsSoWhite.
First there was the whip-cracking feminism of Wonder Woman, then the black power of Black Panther. Now Asia gets its due via Crazy, a classy and sweet-natured movie that deserves an audience.
Constance Wu, from the American sitcom Fresh off the Boat, stars as Rachel Chu, an economics prof at New York University. Rachel has just been invited by her handsome and charming boyfriend, Nick (newcomer Henry Golding), to come to his best friend’s wedding in Singapore – it’s a chance for her to meet Nick’s family and a clear indication of his serious romantic intentions. What soon becomes shockingly clear is that the seemingly ordinary Nick is the crown prince of an enormously wealthy Singapore real-estate dynasty. Rachel has unknowingly snagged the most eligible bachelor in all Asia, and it’s Mean Girls on steroids as she becomes an object of intense speculation … and the target of vicious gossip by disappointed rivals with fingernails like talons.
Raised by a single mom and proudly working class, Rachel is a bit intimidated by all the bling and ostentation – and that’s before she meets Nick’s mother, Eleanor (the great Michelle Yeoh), a quietly ruthless matriarch used to wielding absolute power. Yeoh deftly transitions from Crouching Tiger to Tiger Mom as she coldly dismisses Rachel as “not our sort.” Nick loves his family as much as he loves Rachel, and that irremediable conflict does a decent job of keeping true love at bay till the movie’s climax.
Although in some ways just a standard-issue rom-com, Crazy does delve into the differences between Chinese Americans and their more purely Asian counterparts.
The exotic, ultra-modern glamour of Singapore provides a stunning backdrop for this frothily charming story. And the lead performances are appealing: Wu is a winner all the way, and likeable Nick has a voice as smooth as a $25 martini.
The comedy, sometimes a bit broad, always picks up with the appearance of Peik Lin Goh (the gloriously goofy Awkwafina), Rachel’s eccentric gal pal from college. And in a clever echo of the movie’s opening scene involving a poker match, the daggers-drawn showdown between Rachel and Eleanor takes place at a Mahjong table. Nice!
Stars Constance Wu, Michelle Yeoh, Henry Golding
Directed by Jon M. Chu
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