Written by Wayne Townsend
Crazy Rich Asians depict some of the most extravagantly wealthy people I have ever seen on film. Don’t worry, most of them are cool. In fact, Nick Young, portraited by Malaysian actor Henry Golding, hides his wealth from his girlfriend Rachel Chu, a NYU economics professor played by Constance Wu, for fear she would see him in a different light than the simple, hard-working bloke (I’ll get to this choice of word below) he has cultivated while living in New York. The major conflict of the film is Rachel not being excepted by Nick’s mother Eleanor, played by Michelle Yeoh of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon fame. The plot is simple enough; Nick must return to China to be the best man at his equally rich best friend’s wedding. Nick has avoided/delayed his return to China for two reasons: he’s not ready to take over the family business, and he’s afraid of his family’s reaction to Rachel. We have all seen this movie before, from 1940’s The Philadelphia Story to 1988’s Coming to America, where a couple from different socio-economic classes meet, fall in love, families fight. This time with an Asian cast. Almost every Chinese Hollywood troupe is removed from this film, most of the actors either work were born or have assimilated into western media. Half of them spoke with a European influenced accent. If you closed your eyes, you could hear one of the Grants, Cary or Hugh (no relation). Wu drives the film as a smart, independent fighter who stumbles around a little, but never loses her balance as a modern version of the classic “fish out of water troupe unfolds. Even as Nick lets her down by failing to prepare her for the gauntlet that is his mother, his grandmother, his ex-friend and her stereotypical accomplices. As they do everything they can to make her feel unworthy of Nick’s affections, she maintains her dignity despite repeated assaults on the same. I hope this review doesn’t read as if I didn’t like the film, quite the contrary. It is difficult to tell new stories as any film school professor will tell you. The story is entertaining enough to spend your money and a couple of hours in the theater. The authentic appeal of the film is that the Hollywood bean counters signed off on a movie this massive with a non-white cast, or lead (even though Golding does have a generic Asian face, why quibble), and it has found the footing it deserves with the masses. In a summer full of sequels and bad action films, this one is worthy of a viewing. I’m not sure it will hold up over time, but one could hope. 3 out of 5.