Chad Reviews "Crazy Rich Asians"
Back in 1993, “The Joy Luck Club” made a splash by being one of the first films released by a major Hollywood studio featuring a primarily Asian-American cast. Based on the best-selling novel by Amy Tan, it chronicled the stories of four older female Chinese immigrants attempting to impart their life’s experiences and accumulated wisdom onto their respective daughters. Twenty-five years later, a similar project has come along;, this time by author Kevin Kwan and focusing on a young couple from completely different cultural backgrounds who struggle to fit into everyone else’s definition of who they are and what they SHOULD be. This is the story of “Crazy Rich Asians.”
Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) is a beautiful young socio-economics professor at NYU who is unexpectedly asked by her boyfriend, Nick Young (Henry Golding), to accompany him on a trip to Singapore for the wedding of Colin Khoo (Chris Pang) (his best friend) to Araminta Lee (Sonoya Mizuno). Rachel is stunned by the revelation that Nick is more than what he appears, as his family is actually the wealthiest in all of Singapore, led by Nick’s grandmother Shang Su Yi (Lisa Lu) and his fastidious mother Eleanor Sung-Young (Michelle Yeoh). Rachel is suddenly thrust into a world of jealous ex-girlfriends, ridiculously high expectations, and pure culture shock as she struggles to maintain not only her relationship with Nick, but her own sense of self-worth and identity.
I’m normally not a huge fan of films of this type, as I’m clearly not the target demographic for it. That being said, I enjoyed this film far more than I expected, and while it has its fair share of serious thematic elements as well as the usual tropes and trappings the genre is famous for, it has just as many light hearted moments, particularly those featuring Awkwafina as Goh Peik Lin, Rachel’s old running buddy from her college days. I was also captivated by Gemma Chan’s portrayal of Nick’s cousin Astrid Leong-Teo, a famous model/socialite who is fighting to keep marriage afloat to her husband Michael Teo (Pierre Png) as he struggles to stand out as a self-made man in spite of coming from nothing and suffering from social inadequacies. This film is a fascinating character study between cultures and classes that manages to show both equal shares of heart and wisdom without coming of as too preachy or self-righteous. It’s beautifully shot and smartly directed by Jon M. Chu, and I sincerely hope “Crazy Rich Asians” will open the door for the other two books in its series to be adapted as well.