The book Crazy Rich Asians was released in 2013 and led to two sequels – China Rich Girlfriend and Rich People Problems. In the book, the storyline is told from the point of view of several main characters. This movie shifts the focus to Rachel Chu, which I think was a smart move to narrow the focus slightly.
Rachel is a professor of economics at NYU, and is dating Nick Young. Nick suggests that since they’ve been together for a year, he would like her to come attend his cousin’s wedding in Singapore so that she can meet his family. Because Nick is living fairly humbly in New York City, Rachel has no idea that not only does he come from money – he comes from a lot of money, and family is one of the wealthiest in Singapore.
Upon arrival in Singapore, Rachel and Nick are picked up by Colin and Araminta, the bride and groom-to-be and treated to an evening out that really shows off the city and the food. The following day, Rachel goes to the family home of her college friend Peik Lin and meets her family. Together the family explains to Rachel exactly how rich and famous her boyfriend and his family are. Peik Lin gives her a better gown and drives her to the engagement party at Nick’s grandmother’s house where Rachel finally gets to meet his mother. It goes fairly well, but over the course of the weekend, Rachel begins to see that she doesn’t quite fit in, and that Nick’s mother is doing what she can to ensure Rachel will not stay with Nick.
The movie is directed by Jon M. Chu, who previously did Step UP 2 and 3, G.I.Joe 2, Jem and the Holograms, and Now you See Me 2 (and the upcoming Now You See Me 3). His music-video style actually fits this movie perfectly as it incorporates some of the more lovely parts of Sinapore as an additional character to the movie. The scenes of the wedding are just breathtaking, and I never before realized that a nighttime pond-style wedding was a thing I might want.
Yes, this is the first western-produced film with an exclusively Asian cast since the Joy Luck Club, which was twenty-five years ago, and this cast is exceptional, and multi-national.
- Constance Wu plays Rachel, and she is an American actress best known for the hilarious Fresh Off The Boat. She has an ease as Rachel as she shifts from madly in love, to questioning whether she is good enough, to finally realizing she’s beyond enough. She carries this movie with a freshness that makes it look like she’s been making big-budget rom-coms for years.
- Henry Golding plays Nick, and he is originally from Malaysia, half Malaysian and half English, and this is his first western production. He was just fantastic in this, playing Nick as approachable and charming, regardless of how causally rich he is. He’s also about to appear in a Simple Favor – so get ready for the rise of his star, and for some people saying he might make a good James Bond. Me - I’m saying that.
- Michelle Yeoh plays Eleanor, Nick’s mother, and since I am so used to seeing her in action movies, it was quite a change to see her as the ice-queen matriarch of this family who believes she is just doing what is right for her son.
- British actress Gemma Chan plays Astrid, and she was ethereal and lovely as her world slowly fell apart around her. Astrid is a really interesting character, and yes, that was Glee’s Harry Shum Jr. who smiles at her at the end. He’s got a larger role in the book, and apparently their storyline is key to the potential sequel.
- Lisa Lu plays Henry’s grandmother who at first seems very pleasant, and perhaps the only one who is tolerating Rachel. That is, until you get to know a little more about her.
- Awkwafina plays Peik Lin, and she and her family were there for some very serious comedy relief. She’s great as the supportive friend who offers equal amounts smartass comments and exposition.
- Ken Jeong plays Peik Lin’s father, and he’s just as outrageous here as you would expect. Also – very funny.
- Sonoya Mizuno and Chris Pang play Araminta and Colin – the couple getting married, whose wedding is theeeee event of the year. They are entertaining and lovely, especially the first night out when they take Nick and Rachel to eat, and then again at the wedding. If Mizuno looks familiar to you, she was the robot in Ex Machina that danced with Oscar Isaac.
- Silicon Valley scene stealer Jimmy O. Yang plays one of Nick’s cousins, Bernard, who keeps insisting that the bachelor party and various other things are ‘not about him’, as he continues to make them about him. He is absolutely hilarious in this.
- Daily Show correspondent Ronny Cheing plays another cousin, Eddie Cheng, who is very, very, concerned with appearances, and getting his wife and kids to present just the right image. Remy Hii plays his brother Alistair, who is working in the film industry and dating an actress.
- Superstore scene-stealer Nico Santos plays cousin Oliver T’sien, who is, as he puts it, the ‘rainbow colored’ black sheep of the family. He helps Rachel just when she needs it, and also seems to function as a bit of a ‘fixer’ for Eleanor.
Overall, by now, you should have seen this movie – not just because it’s important in terms of representation (it is), but because it is a really good movie. It’s fun, it’s charming, it’s sweet, it’s hilarious, and it’s crafted well and shot beautifully. Go check it out, you’ll love it.
9 out of 10 – the best rom-com of the year? Extra bonus points for the hilarious dress-trying-on-montage. Spectacular!