Combining young love, family drama, modern-day classism, and opulence that only the Singapore elite can deliver, “Crazy Rich Asians” is a light-hearted, joyous ride from start to finish.
Based on the best-selling novel by Kevin Kwan (part of a three book series), Crazy Rich Asians follows the story of Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) and Nick Young (Henry Golding). They’ve been seeing each other for over a year so naturally, it’s about time Nick brought Rachel home to Singapore so she can meet his family. What Rachel doesn’t know is that Nick is practically the Prince William of Singapore, heir to a mountain of fortune with single prowlers waiting around every corner. Rachel, being a self-possessed NYU professor raised by a single Chinese mother (Tan Kheng Hua), is completely unprepared for the social graces required in the world she’s been thrust into. Nick’s reasoning for his family secret, while understandable in nature proves to be naive at best; his dreams to find a love that was true without having to worry about a gold-digging lover are quickly thrown out the window when his “Tiger Mom” Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh) hears of him bringing her home. It’s as if the minute Rachel lands on the island, elite forces are at work conspiring to separate her from Singapore’s most eligible bachelor. The elite aren’t all evil though, she has allies to help her navigate the rough waters of wealth. The first is Rachel’s former college friend Peik Lin Goh (Awkwafina) who once again proves that she brings non-stop, scene-stealing laughter to a story. Peik introduces Rachel to Oliver (Nico Santos), the fabulous “rainbow sheep” of the Young family, who gives Rachel a makeover that made audience member gasp in delight when revealed. No matter how much Rachel changes her appearance, she’ll always be seen as a “banana, yellow on the outside but white on the inside”. Soon, she and Nick must make some tough decisions between love, family, fortune, and happiness.
While the story itself is wonderful, there is another reason movie-goers should be aware of when debating to see this film. Since the 1993 sensation that is “The Joy Luck Club”, “Crazy Rich Asians” is the first major American studio motion picture to feature a predominantly Asian and Asian-American cast. Over the years we have seen more calls for diversity, everything from the #OscarsSoWhite movement to Asian actors quitting roles over pay discrepancies with their white co-stars, but in 2018 Asian actors are only landing roughly >3% of leading roles. When we hire diverse casts, the ripple effect goes further than just a paycheck – it builds industry clout and a reputation. We will hopefully continue to see great performances from Michelle Yeoh, diverse roles being given to Constance Wu, maybe even see Ken Jeong as something other than the Asian comedic relief (even though he does it so well). All of this could snowball into more representation for all kinds of marginalized groups within the spectrum of American entertainment.
But I digress…
Aside from the diversity, what makes this film so beautiful and empowering, is watching the growth of the two leading characters who are determined to build a future on equal footing, even if it means acting more “American” by choosing their partner’s happiness over luxury, wealth or familial obligation. Drive your hot shot Lambourgini, or your beat-up Buick, to the theatre and enjoy a film that proves money can’t buy everything.