Based on the 2013 Kevin Kwan novel, Crazy Rich Asians is a classic romantic comedy following Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) as she travels to Singapore to meet her boyfriend (Henry Golding)’s family. The film starts with a simple premise that may seem familiar but takes the audience on an entirely new adventure.
Director John M. Chu beautifully incorporates Chinese-Singaporean culture in the film particularly with cooking and food preparation montages that will leave you drooling. After Rachel discovers just how wealthy Nick’s family is we are thrown into the world of extravagance that surpasses any I’ve seen before, all coming to a breathtaking climax at the wedding of Nick’s friends.
The tensions of the film arise from the difference in class between Rachel who is Asian-American and raised by a single mother and Nick who is set to inherit the family’s many multinational corporations. Unfortunately, though the film has so much to do with class, it has been accused of ignoring the class and race issues that are prevalent in Singapore. Though I am not well-versed on the politics, there are a few points in the film that made me particularly uncomfortable.
All the characters other than those in service roles have British or American accents reflecting their foreign educations but when we are introduced to Rachel’s friend’s father played by Ken Jeong he pretends to have a Singaporean accent and then laughs it off and assures Rachel he was educated in the US too. The film focuses on Singaporeans who are ethnically Chinese and there are very few brown people shown in the film – none of whom spoke. Besides opening doors for the main characters, we only see two brown people interact with the them and the main characters are frightened of them. These moments seemed out of place and their implications offensive, so it’s surprising and disappointing that they were overlooked.
The main plot surrounds Rachel and Nick but we see glimpses into the lives of other characters who are based in Singapore, mainly Nick’s cousins and friends and Peik Lin (Awkwafina). Nick’s cousins are used as a counter to him, most are obsessed with wealth and use their power and money irresponsibly, the exception being Astrid (Gemma Chan).
Charming, successful and charitable Astrid is in a marriage that like Nick and Rachel, is strained by the difference in their status. Chan is perfect in the role and whenever she was on screen I was entranced, Astrid definitely needs a spin-off sequel please. The whole cast shine and it’s wonderful to see so many different, well rounded female characters who aren’t sexualised. Chu seems to know the market of the film well and instead of sexualising the women, we are given indulgent shots of the men as they dress which is refreshing and for someone attracted to men, delightful.
Crazy Rich Asians is the breath of fresh air that the romantic comedy genre desperately needed. It is fun, heartfelt and hilarious. It is a great example of how Hollywood has restricted itself creatively for so long by not casting and hiring diversely. But also with the controversy, it is an example of how far we all have to go and how we must always strive to do better.
– Lucy Noonan