‘CRAZY RICH ASIANS’ is based on the novel by Kevin Kwan and hits theaters this Wednesday. The story follows Rachel, a Chinese-American, and native New Yorker that travels with her boyfriend to Singapore to attend his best friend’s wedding. Where it isn’t long before she discovers her beau is not just part of a wealthy family but is also one of Asia’s most recognizable and eligible bachelors. All things that would normally command her attention, if she wasn’t also dealing with the stress of meeting his very traditional mother for the first time.
When I watched the trailer for this one I wasn’t overly excited and felt the way it was edited portrayed a very generic genre film. I do enjoy romantic-comedies and often give them a chance. For me however, I routinely find them a laying on the sediment a little too thick and raising the melodramatic’s dangerously close to nauseating levels much too often. Casting can also be an issue with an unnatural collection of overly attractive characters that more often than not, poses much more style than substance.
This script though still felt sweet and endearing. It was a simple premise but surrounded with a fresh setting that had potential to add some unique elements to a romantic themed story that on paper certainly comes off as familiar. Which I felt it was successful in accomplishing. This was such a delightful film that grabbed my attention and never let go. It maneuvers itself along a line that doesn’t stray too far in either direction. The story-line is sweet, but not too sweet. There are emotionally driven moments that felt genuine, and not overly scripted. It also splashes in routinely effective humor that was worked naturally into the situations, without ever feeling forced. Making this film a great example of a romantic-comedy for all audiences.
It keeps the story grounded giving it a current day vibe and rarely does it feel blatantly theatrical. It has a fun mix of contemporary and traditional that blend together with charm. The collection of characters all provide an appealing variety to the flow of the story. There is such a range in personality types that the direction of the humor, and the overall tone of it, have a continually fresh delivery which makes the laughs hit effectively. The run-time is admittedly on the long side at just under two-hours. But it plays out much swifter than that. The main plot-line is always the focus and the sub-plots all serve their purpose in moving characters forward.
This gives scenes a continual intention without feeling like they are simply wasting time, and to provide the film with cliché moments that in the end, make no difference anyways. The writing was polished and witty. It explores the culture of old, and new wealth in China by working it into the story-line making it feel organic rather than this angle feeling like a tacked-on accessory. These financial backdrops resonate in different ways with the characters, thus influences their outlooks and behavior. Which I felt made the over-the-top wealth on display throughout much more amusing than it was ostentatious without question.
The cast was fantastic. Constance Wu knocks it out-of-the-park with a sincere, lovable performance. You can’t help but connect with her character, and I felt the strong, independent, intelligent persona in this role was perfectly delivered from Wu, without ever forcing a note. She was genuinely down-to-earth which for me made it much easier to connect with her personality and character-arc to generate that hope that things will work out good for her. Henry Golding was a solid co-star and with this being his first major performance, I felt he did a great job. He was charming, he felt capable in the part, he carried it well and he hit some emotional scenes without feeling like he was overacting. He also shared a great chemistry with Wu that effectively solidified their strong love for one another.
Michelle Yeoh was excellent as the mother figure. She was a person who was set in her ways of family traditions, and not fond of outsiders in general. Which I think Yeoh delivered with a standoffish performance that captured it just as the story needed. She had some scenes that certainly left their imprint, and she was able to land authentic intensity with simple expressions and with her eyes alone. Awkwafina was flat-out hilarious, and in a film with Ken Jeong, saying you stole the comedic spotlight is a lofty compliment. Something she pulled off without question by landing one laugh after the other with her charismatic delivery.
Overall, I had a great time watching this film and it captured my imagination much more than I was expecting it to. The heartwarming moments landed because they didn’t try too hard, and with a continual mix of characters dropping in routinely, the pace only slows momentarily. So, compared to other romantic comedies, this one definitely holds up. The cast is charming and likable, and it was great to see an Asian cast headline a western film and do with a skilled, enjoyable result. It delivers drama, it provides laughs, and it knows when to pull in the reigns on the theatrics, to result in a grounded love story a wide-audience can connect with and find entertainment in.
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