Dan's Review: Fairy tale formula works for "Crazy Rich Asians"
Aug 17, 2018 04:38PM
By Dan Metcalf
Constance Wu and Henry Golding in Crazy Rich Asians- © 2018 Warner Bros.
Crazy Rich Asians (Warner Bros.)
Rated PG-13 for some suggestive content and language.
Starring Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, Gemma Chan, Lisa Lu, Nico Santos, Ronny Chieng, Victoria Loke, Remy Hii, Selena Tan, Janice Koh, Tan Kheng Hua, Awkwafina, Ken Jeong, Koh Chieng Mun, Chris Pang, Sonoya Mizuno, Jimmy O. Yang, Jing Lusi, Harry Shum Jr., Pierre Png, Fiona Xie, Amy Cheng, Kris Aquino, Carmen Soo.
Written by Adele Lim and Peter Chiarelli, based on the novel by Kevin Kwan.
Directed by Jon M. Chu.
Romantic comedies are a special kind of fantasy. They are full of improbable outcomes, perfectly timed coincidences and a fair share of manufactured conflict. Almost all of them include the joining of two people who are nothing alike, yet destined for each other. The “humor” in such films is often minimal and depends on zany supporting characters for the majority of the laughs. Even so, “rom-coms” are sweet and sometimes dreamy and are an affirmation of the universal human need for finding meaning through “soul mates,” or whatever. So what does it matter if the main characters are exclusive members of a particular cultural/racial group? Crazy Rich Asians could have been set as “Stable Middle-class Croatians” or “Bonkers Bourgeoisie Bolivians” with the same script and different actors, and odds are it could be the same film. But this time it’s “Asians” at the center of the universe, so I suppose it works just as well.
Constance Wu plays Rachel, a New York university economics professor in love with the hunky Nick Young (Henry Golding). When the pair travels to Singapore to attend a friend’s wedding, Rachel discovers that her lover is not some common fellow, but heir to a massive family fortune. She’s a little bothered that he didn't tell her about his rich family, but Rachel trudges forward, confident that their love will overcome any economic or cultural differences. Those plans go south as soon as she meets Nick’s family, especially his influential matriarch Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh), who disapproves of her son dating a “commoner.” She also clashes with other extended family members who are suspect of her intentions. Lucky for Rachel, her best friend from college Goh (Awkwafina) lives in town and helps her dress and act properly enough to fit in. Eventually, the gloves come off and Rachel must spar directly with Eleanor. Meanwhile, Nick plans to ask for Rachel’s hand in marriage, and she must decide whether to stay with the man she loves or risk him being ostracized by his family.
Crazy Rich Asians is as fun and sweet as any romantic comedy, but the beautifully sanitized Singaporean backdrop gives it a little extra dazzle. With few exceptions, most of the main characters are stunning and beautiful (as they are in any romantic comedy), further defining the modern fairy tale. The entirely Asian cast speaks perfect English, removing all cultural barriers and broadening the appeal. The supporting cast and their character’s backstories are somewhat clunky, especially Gemma Chan as Nick’s too-perfect-to-be-true sister Astrid; a stunning beauty with a heart of gold and a cheating husband. The melodrama doesn’t ruin the party, but it does create a little too much of a soap opera at times.
So it would appear that the tried-and-true formula of a girl from the wrong side of the tracks landing the all-too-perfect prince from the upper crust and “true love” overcoming his snobby family feeling burdened by a commoner in their ranks…works in any cultural setting.
If that formula works for you, so will Crazy Rich Asians.
Crazy Rich Asians Trailer