Published on August 17th, 2018 | by Dan Nicholls


Crazy Rich Asians

We’re not sure how we feel about the appropriateness of the title, Crazy Rich Asians, but it’s a movie you can go see.  Dan did.

There is little new or inspired about the basic plot and structure of Crazy Rich Asians. The movie features what are really the same romantic-comedy genre tropes we’ve known for decades. But this film navigates its course with humility and a sense of humor and the results – though predictable – are electrifying. Crazy Rich Asians is more than a cultural wake-up call to its big studio brethren; it’s also a refreshing blast of an unorthodox romcom smash-and-grab.

Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) is a meek and slightly off-kilter economics professor in NYC who’s madly in love with Nick Young (Henry Golding). Nick’s just another smiling, pleasant fella to us at first but the film very quickly unravels his familiar lineage, which means exposing the fact that he’s next in line for a billion-dollar Chinese throne. Slightly perturbed but nonetheless smitten, Rachel agrees to accompany Nick on an excursion to Singapore where Nick will be the best man at his friend’s wedding. If misery loves company then misery fucking can’t live without family. Because the Young clan, led my matriarch Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh), is more than a basic hurdle to step over.

With the help of her best friend Peik Lin (Awkwafina), Rachel eventually finds her footing amongst the Eastern Elite. Even as the journey feels familiar the added touches from director Jon M. Chu and screenwriters Peter Chiarelli and Adele Lim (based on a best-selling novel by Kevin Kwan) enliven the proceedings to heights even the most whitewashed of blockbusters would dream of reaching.

Yes, the story is trite, but it’s told with a healthy dosage of wit. In the year 2018 that little three-letter-word has proven to be the make-or-break point for a large number of genre entries. Why does Crazy Rich Asians succeed within the trappings of its respective genre while The Meg underwhelms even while driving down the middle of its very own lane? It all boils down to wit. Wit, and a healthy dose of intellect. Because even the laziest of premises can be floated up to the surface of the sun if the right minds are piloting it.

The whole shebang is presented loudly. There’s nary a moment where sound is at a regular level or dialogue is delivered at a whisper. As with the visuals, the performances and the technical craft dictate that Crazy Rich Asians needs to make itself prominent. And why shouldn’t it? Not to get political by any means, but the last predominately Asian leading cast in a Hollywood hit dates all the way back to The Joy Luck Club in 1993. This movie wouldn’t be as relevant or as refreshing had it starred, say, Sandra Bullock and replaced China with Boston or something. It’s unfair to use the word “novelty” but the certain uniqueness of the film’s opticals and subject matter can only help to elevate it to cultural prominence. But the picture’s quality is more than enough to help Crazy Rich Asians carve a place into the genre hall of fame on its own damn merits.

Some animated visual flourishes half-heartedly threaten to annoy but quickly vanish before our eyes. Crazy Rich Asians doesn’t need any visual gimmicks or filmmaking exaggerations when its core is this rock solid. Wu and Golding are dynamite together. There’s this moment where they’re looking at each other from across a room while mouthing “I love you” and it’s simultaneously heartwarming, inspiring, and sexy all at once. Their commitment to their central roles is the real deal and the duo of actors will hopefully explode into some major money-making deals in the imminent future.

Only those with their hearts closed off would be impenetrable to the charms of Crazy Rich Asians. It isn’t thematically and narratively a whole lot different than the other hallmarks of its genre but its execution is absolute fire. Crazy Rich Asians has its faults but is undeniably enjoyable.

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is a Vancouver-based, lifelong movie geek who's been a projectionist, critic, director, (accidental) actor, and writer in the industry since E.T. phoned home. @dannicholls

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