As I write this, I’ve already seen the movie, so it sort of renders my usual initial impressions useless.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Constance Wu (LEGO NINJAGO , and the upcoming NEXT GEN  and WISH DRAGON ), Henry Golding (making his acting debut, and the upcoming A SIMPLE FAVOR  and MONSOON ), and Michelle Yeoh (GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY 2 , MORGAN , and upcoming films MASTER Z: IP MAN LEGACY  and BOSS LEVEL ).
In support, we have Awkwafina (OCEAN’S EIGHT , STORKS , and upcoming films THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE 2  and PARADISE HILLS ), Gemma Chan (TRANSFORMERS 5 , and upcoming films LONDON FIELDS  and MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS ), Nico Santos (PAUL BLART 2  and 1 episode of 2 BROKE GIRLS [2011 – 2017]), and Ken Jeong (RIDE ALONG 2 , DESPICABLE ME 2 , and upcoming films GOOSEBUMPS 2: HAUNTED HALLOWEEN  and ELSEWHERE ).
Now for the crew. Directing, we have Jon M. Chu, known for NOW YOU SEE ME 2 (2016), JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS (2015), G.I. JOE: RETALIATION (2013), and the upcoming IN THE HEIGHTS (2020). Co-writing the screenplay, we have Peter Chiarelli (NOW YOU SEE ME 2) and Adele Lim (TV shows that I’ve either never seen or heard of). Composing the score is Brian Tyler, known for THE MUMMY (2017), CRIMINAL (2016), AVENGERS: ULTRON (2015), IRON MAN 3 (2013), THE EXPENDABLES 2 (2012), RAMBO (2008), and upcoming films WHAT MEN WANT (2019) and THE MAZE (2019). The cinematographer is Vanja Cernjul, known for stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of. Finally, the editor is Myron I. Kerstein, known for GOING IN STYLE (2017).
This is my honest opinion of: CRAZY RICH ASIANS
Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) was raised by her single mother and grew up to be an educated young woman and a professor of economics. She is also in a happy and healthy relationship with the strikingly handsome Nick Young (Henry Golding). Soon, he invites her to travel with him to Singapore for a family reunion, specifically a wedding for one of his family. As it turns out, they end up traveling first class, which is a surprise to Rachel, and it’s soon discovered that Nick comes from a wealthy family. What starts as exciting soon becomes complicated when a lot of Nick’s family seems to turn relatively hostile toward her, specifically Nick’s overbearing and highly critical mother, Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh).
Ugh, please don’t hate me, but I don’t think this movie is nearly as good as the majority seem to be saying. It’s good! I just don’t agree with how good.
Let me start with the positives. This movie deserves a lot of respect. Every major and supporting character is of Asian descent. Not a single Caucasian can be found with a speaking role and thank God for it, especially in modern Hollywood where equality, fair representation, and equal treatment are all the rage, and for good reason. What’s also really cool is just how many different Asians are in the movie. Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indonesian, Malaysian, you name ’em, this movie probably has ’em. But it doesn’t stop there. You also have your American-Asians and your British-Asians. And those are just the obvious ones that my uncultured ass can point out. Even BLACK PANTHER can’t make the same claim, as both Martin Freeman and Andy Serkis were supporting actors. This movie doesn’t even do that.
The acting is pretty damn solid too. Though the movie isn’t especially funny, it’s likable and has a certain measure of charm that keeps it entertaining and the characters interesting. Standouts are obviously Yeoh. I mean, how can she not be? I’m pretty sure this woman sneezes elegance and class. Every second she’s on screen makes your skin crawl. She stares daggers into your soul and it’s impossible to know if you would rather curl up in a corner and cry, or attempt to lash out like a frightened mouse, despite knowing that it’d be fool’s lashing as you’re going to get pounced and shredded like wet tissue. Eleanor is so spiteful and so amazingly passive-aggressive that she joins the league of villains that you love to hate.
And here’s a shocker, Awkwafina has a fun role. I mean, she’s basically a sassy black friend, which occasionally got a little annoying, but there is a level of grounding that many characters like Peik Lin fail to be. For one thing, she can be funny. I love how when she’s driving Rachel to the first family gathering, and when Nick invites Peik Lin to join them she acts all coy, claiming to have other dinner plans. But with very little coaxing, she’s all like, “Yeah, fuck it!” and goes straight to her trunk to pull out a nice dress. Yes, Peik Lin has a collection of nice dresses in her trunk for such occasions. She kind of cracks me up. Where was this performance in OCEANS 8?? I’ll tell you where, stashed away behind an unforgiving script.
A lot of the other actors do well too, like Wu and Golding are a great pairing in this movie and work well off of each other as the rest of the cast. The movie also has surprisingly amazing cinematography. A flyby of the Young estate, dude, that shit was gorgeous eye-candy. And the actual wedding scene? Bro… pure rom-com movie magic that’s been absent for WAY too long.
Okay, so I think I’ve done a good job in establishing that I do ultimately like this movie. But I did allude to the idea that I have problems with the story, so let’s get to that, shall we?
The smallest issues that I have are the lack of comedy from certain characters. Like Ken Jeong isn’t very funny, nor is Peik Lin’s younger brother who has a creepy crush on Rachel, constantly taking pictures of her. They’re not in the movie much, but it’s just not necessary when they make appearances. And some subplots felt unnecessary to the overall narrative. Like, the story is mostly about Rachel and Nick, but it cuts to Astrid (Gemma Chan) and her marriage to Michael (Pierre Png). I feel like I get why. It’s meant to serve as a cautionary tale to the perils of what a marriage between a wealthy person and a person from a “not so comfortable” family, but… I don’t know, doesn’t the movie do a fine enough job of explaining that from Rachel and Nick’s perspectives? The jumps to Astrid’s side of things feel random, and it’s not like there’s any other characters with similar time dedicated to them. So what makes Astrid so special? Also, this movie gets unexpectedly dark in some areas. Like, what the hell was up with that fish scene?! A big ole fish was gutted, its blood flooding Rachel’s bed, and in bloody writing, “Catch this you gold-digging whore” or whatever it said. Holy shit, dude, this was one horse head away from becoming THE GODFATHER (1972), and it’s not necessary here. I get it, jealous suitors for Nick want Rachel out of the equation, but it’s not like anything as brutally disturbing ever happens again in the movie, so this felt really out of place.
Once you get past the brilliant Asian representation in this movie, what is this movie at its core? It’s basically a better version of MONSTER-IN-LAW (2005), which is a back-handed compliment. I’ll admit, MONSTER-IN-LAW is not a very good movie and is ultimately pretty stupid. Jane Fonda’s character is too simple, holding her son up to be some kind of Adonis who only deserves a goddess for a wife, instead of someone who legitimately makes him happy. For no well-thought-out reasons. I give CRAZY RICH ASIANS credit for improving on this concept. Fonda’s character in her movie is simply overbearing. But Eleanor makes it clear that, social status aside, it’s a cultural thing for the parents to be directly involved in their children’s future, so much so that they will mold them as they damn well please, regardless of their personal feelings on the matter. Their children are expected to grow up and take over the family business, inherit their fortunes, all that good stuff. But here’s the thing, whenever I see this concept, which admittedly isn’t very often, a specific scenario comes to my mind. Imagine for a moment that a little kid is playing with Star Wars action figures; Luke Skywalker versus Darth Vader. Pretty standard, right? But then Mom comes along and tells that kid to share the toys with the younger sibling, to which the kid complies. But then the younger sibling starts pretending that Darth Vader is a good guy, a superhero, because of the cape, with superpowers, and then the older sibling gets absolutely furious. That’s exactly what I see in Eleanor.
Her son is barely her child with his own free-thinking brain, but rather a legacy to carry on the family name. It’s absolutely frustrating to see characters like this, no matter how well they’re played, or by whom. It’s just a story that’s really hard for me to get behind. Much as I love Eleanor and Yeoh’s ability to flawlessly command the screen, Eleanor is still not written that well. She hates Rachel upon first glance and is constantly conspiring against her and being utterly mean-spirited, making her more of a monster than a complex woman. I would prefer that she legitimately liked Rachel and acknowledges that she and her son are a great couple, but still low-key feels remorse for a relationship that she doesn’t believe will last because they are of two completely different worlds and Rachel will face hostility from jealous ex-girlfriends and potential conquests, as she ultimately does. She wouldn’t condone the abhorrent behavior, but it wouldn’t be helped. Even if they were to try and suck it up, Nick would be so focused on the family business that it would eventually drive a wedge between their relationship and likely end simply for who he is and what he’s responsible for, or worse, be in a neglectful marriage that will ultimately turn Rachel into someone eerily similar to Eleanor, and that’s not a fate she’d wish on anyone. This would make her much more humane and her displeasure with the relationship would be better explained.
Overall, despite my reservations against the movie, I like it. The acting is great, there’s a lot of charm and wonderful chemistry, and the movie deserves a ton of respect for having an all-Asian cast. Here’s hoping we get more than a few stars in the making. By no means perfect, I do recommend seeing this movie. You may not need to rush out to see it, but it’s worth the price of admission.
My honest rating for CRAZY RICH ASIANS: 4/5
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- THE LITTLE MERMAID
- THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST
- THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS
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