Crazy Rich Asians Film Review
The recently released Crazy Rich Asians, an adaptation of the best-selling book written by Kevin Kwan, has been a huge box office success, proving there is space for Asian representation and diversity in Hollywood.
Crazy Rich Asians follows Rachel Chu (Constance Wu), as she travels with her boyfriend, Nick Young (Henry Golding), to be best man at his best friend’s wedding in Singapore. Nervous about meeting Nick’s family for the first time, Rachel is unimpressed to learn that Nick has forgotten to mention a few key details about his life – such as being a member of one of Singapore’s wealthiest families. Being Nick’s girlfriend puts a target on Rachel’s back, with socialites and Nick’s disapproving mother (Michelle Yeoh) taking aim at her.
It’s not so much that the Crazy Rich Asians storyline is original, it more that it’s extremely well executed. The storyline parallels that of Cinderella in many aspects – working-class woman finds out her boyfriend is a from an extremely wealthy Singaporean family and feels less than adequate as a result. Sounds predictable, right?
Wrong. The use of a traditional romantic-comedy template allowed director John M. Chu to change elements to suit an Asian fairytale narrative while featuring an all-Asian cast, something audiences haven’t seen since The Joy Luck Club, released over twenty-five years ago. Crazy Rich Asians manages to avoid some of the genre’s cliches, escaping its soap-opera-ish roots. It’s also refreshing to see that none of the characters are trained in martial arts or come across as overly studious, a welcome change from previous tone-deaf Hollywood stereotypes.
What gives Crazy Rich Asians a fresh edge is a strong focus placed on the importance of the matriarchy in Asian families, which differs greatly from that of western families. As in many Asian cultures, elders are highly respected by their families for their wisdom and obeying them is of great importance. In Crazy Rich Asians, Young’s paternal grandmother is portrayed to be a powerful woman in his family, condemning his relationship with Rachel as she doesn’t believe she is worthy of her grandson. Nick’s mother also opens up about her struggles with gaining her mother-in-law’s approval, which suggests why she now holds the same standards for her son.
What stands out is Chu’s ability to stand her ground and not succumb to the intense pressures of her boyfriends family. Not once does she try to alter her behaviour to please her potential in-laws, rather she maintains her composure even during the most testing of times. Chu’s only concern is loving Nick, which she does wholeheartedly and honestly throughout the movie. Chu’s character reflects a heroine not often seen in romantic comedies; a woman who doesn’t need saving or changing to adhere to a particular set of standards.
Crazy Rich Asians tells an endearing story in a brilliant way. And in so doing, it shows how great stories cross barriers and wind up enriching the world around us. The result is hilariously enjoyable, and hooray for Hollywood for finally making it happen.