Release date: 14th September 2018/Watch the trailer here
Based on the bestselling novel of the same name by Kevin Kwan, Crazy Rich Asians is not just another romcom: it also happens to be the first film by a major Hollywood studio starring an almost entirely Asian and Asian-American cast in a contemporary setting since 1993. The film follows native New Yorker Rachel Chu (Constance Wu), who happily agrees to accompany her boyfriend Nick (Henry Golding) to his best friend’s wedding in Singapore. Excited to visit Asia for the first time but apprehensive about meeting Nick’s family, Rachel is also surprised to discover that Nick had neglected to mention a few minor details about his life: namely, that his family is extremely wealthy, and that Nick is also considered to be one of the country’s most eligible bachelors. Finding herself thrust into the spotlight as a result of being on Nick’s arm, Rachel must now contend with jealous socialites, eccentric relatives and, worse, Nick’s disapproving mother, Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh).
At first glance, it seems as though there’s little – aside from the cast, of course – that sets Crazy Rich Asians apart from the average romcom – after all, it’s clichéd and predictable from the very first frame. But the thing is, there’s just so much to love about the rest of the film that the clichés and the predictability fail to matter. Even though we all know how the story is going to end, we’ve never seen the story told quite like this before.
For one thing, romantic comedies set in London or New York are a dime a dozen at this point, but Crazy Rich Asians is a transportive cinematic experience that takes audiences somewhere new. Beautifully filmed, Singapore acts as a stunning backdrop for the love story and family conflict that make up the film’s central narrative, and director Jon M. Chu doesn’t hesitate to show the city-state in all of its dazzling detail. From a street food montage that will make your mouth water to an exquisitely beautiful wedding ceremony and all of the opulent displays of unimaginable wealth in between, Crazy Rich Asians is a visual treat; never detracting from its characters or story but adding to them instead.
The characters are another element of the film that elevate Crazy Rich Asians above so many other films of its kind. Often in a romantic comedy at least one of the leads is so intolerable that you find yourself unable to care whether or not they’re together by the end of the film, but Rachel and Nick – likeable, charismatic and with effortless, natural chemistry between the two actors – are a couple you find yourself rooting for right from their first introduction to the audience. Rachel in particular makes for an empowering change from the typical romcom ‘damsel in distress’: a successful economics professor at NYU with lasting friendships and a close, loving relationship with her mother, she doesn’t need Nick in order for her life to feel whole. The supporting characters, too, have their individual moments to shine: in particular, the scene-stealing, hilarious best friend of Rachel, Peik Lin (Awkwafina), and Nick’s formidable mother; cold, powerful, dignified yet also vulnerable, played to perfection by Yeoh.
Ultimately, Crazy Rich Asians has everything you need from a good romcom: laugh out loud humour and, of course, plenty of romance. But it also has everything you want from a good romcom, too: the characters, the costumes, the location, even the music – as well as a surprising amount of depth and meaning, with observations about the relationships between parents and their children and the way in which wealth can warp those relationships, both familial and otherwise. Throw in the fact that the cultural specificity of Crazy Rich Asians also makes it a film that is every bit as important for under-represented audiences as it is tremendous amounts of fun for everybody, and you have all of the makings of a modern classic.