Crazy Rich Asians is something I may never truly understand. Since I’m not crazy, rich, or Asian. I don’t have to relate to something to enjoy it, but I feel like Crazy Rich Asians would’ve been overlooked if not for its cast. Based on the book by Kevin Kwan, Crazy Rich Asians is the first Chinese American movie released by a major studio in decades. Although executives were nervous, the movie was a box-office success with Awards attention. The more hype it got, the more likely I was to be disappointed. Director Jon M. Chu wasn’t exactly that beloved beforehand. I love rom-coms, but I don’t see them in theaters no matter who stars in them. Even the 91% Rotten Tomatoes consensus called it formulaic without truly criticizing the movie.
I do think Crazy Rich Asians has merit outside of its all-Asian cast, but that still doesn’t make it less cliché. The cinematography is beautiful with epic Singapore landscapes and a magical wedding. The cast is impressive, but I can only follow so many extended family members. Fresh Off the Boat star Constance Wu plays likeable leading lady/college professor Rachel Chu from a working class family. She somehow never knows that her handsome British-Chinese boyfriend Nick Young played by newcomer Henry Golding is crazy rich after 1 year of dating. They do get romantic, but the focus is really the status struggle between Rachel and Nick’s family.
They attend his friend’s wedding in Singapore where she comes in direct conflict with his old fashioned Christian mother Eleanor. Michelle Yeoh elevates the material past the disapproving mother cliché. Other family members receive attention, but I was most interested in Gemma Chan’s subplot as Nick’s cousin Astrid. She feels genuinely classy and her problems are sympathetic. I have nothing against rich people, but they do feel obnoxiously wealthy at times. As for the comedy, I’ll never understand the appeal of Awkwafina. Ken Jeong was funnier in one scene than she was in the entire movie. The use of Mahjong in the climax feels appropriately unique, but there’s still a last minute grand romantic gesture on an airplane. Crazy Rich Asians just barely elevates its familiar story for me to commend it.