One does not need to learn Chinese or nab a rich boyfriend to watch this Asian comedy.
“Crazy Rich Asians” chronicles the life behind the affluent Chinese families and succeeds in bringing the culture into more depth and making it relatable to the audience.
The long-awaited movie, released Aug. 15, is adapted from the best-selling book written by Kevin Kwan. Dominating the box office, it earned $25 million over the weekend and $34 million since opening day.
In the two-hour long movie, Chinese-American Rachel Chu (Constance Wu, “Fresh Off the Boat”) and her boyfriend Nick Young (Henry Golding, “The Borneo Incident”) attend his best friend Colin Koo’s (Chris Pang, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny”) wedding in Singapore, which is said among the rich to be the wedding of the century. Once they arrive, Rachel finds out that Nick is from a prestigious, rich family and faces disapproval from his mother Eleanor Young (Michelle Yeoh, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny”) because she is from the middle class.
Wu shines as the heroine in Jon M. Chu’s (“Now You See Me 2”) movie, going against the usual damsel in distress as she tries to overcome the scrutiny from the rich socialites. Wu pleasantly portrays Rachel as a passionate economics professor who uses her skills of cleverness when she confronts Nick’s critical relatives. Rather than being a helpless damsel, Rachel refuses to give the relatives the satisfaction of breaking her.
Along with incredible acting, the videography frames the story beautifully. The characters are usually positioned in the middle of the screen, preventing the audience from being distracted to the sides. The camera also shows the scenery in Rachel’s point of view; the screen goes hazy and disorients when she tries to make her way around the conceited socialites during the wedding.
Another interesting element that captivates the audience is the background music, which ranges from Chinese pop songs to Chinese covers of American songs. If one listens closely enough, “Yellow” by Coldplay and “Material Girl” by Madonna are in Chinese. While this movie focuses on Asians, it still makes sure to integrate the Western culture that Rachel comes from.
Although a romantic comedy, the Asian audience can relate to this movie, which focuses on the expectations and social norms of Asian culture: getting a good education and holding a deep respect for the elder in the household. It also goes more into detail about Chinese customs, like making dumplings or playing a tile game Mahjong. But the focus on these particular details goes beyond the Western knowledge of Asian culture and more into depth with Chinese traditions.
It is great that “Crazy Rich Asians” highlights the distinct separation between Chinese Americans and the traditionalist natives. While they are racially the same, their mindsets and lifestyles differ greatly from each other; Rachel chases after her passions to be happy, while Eleanor does what is best for her family members to maintain their future. Despite that, this movie creatively uses this yin and yang concept through Rachel and Eleanor to show that although they are different, they can still learn respect for one other.
Yet, a prominent issue is the lack of focus on side characters such as Nick’s rich cousin Astrid Teo (Gemma Chan, “Transformers: The Last Knight”). Despite her frivolous spending and background, she is down-to-earth and kind toward people. Her character development throughout the plot makes her appear important, yet the film does not finish tying up her story.
Despite that, “Crazy Rich Asians” is revolutionary since it is the first film to have a full Asian cast since “Joy Luck Club” in 1993. But what makes “Crazy Rich Asians” unique to the audience is that it maintains the importance of both the West and the East, integrating jokes poking at Asian and American culture.
Underneath the craziness of nosy aunts, extravagant trips and fashion shows, “Crazy Rich Asians” truly enchants the audience with the lesson that one’s roots do not define them.