First thing’s first, I haven’t read the book originally written by Kevin Kwan, so I can’t make comparisons or tell you how faithful the movie is to the original. However, I can tell you that Crazy Rich Asians the movie is colourful, extravagant, dramatic and filled to the brim with ridiculous antics of the disgustingly wealthy. The movie is also rife with strong female characters and matriarchs as well as a gorgeous cast. So even if you’re not there for the story, you’ll enjoy the eye candy. There is PLENTY to take in with your eyes.
If you are there for the story though, don’t worry. You will not be disappointed. I laughed, cried, scoffed, and related way too much to the typical Asian stereotypes. It’s a fun movie that makes for great repeat viewing.
Before we proceed, I should warn you that there will be spoilers ahead. I recommend that you watch the movie first and then come back here so we can talk about it together.[LAST WARNING]
Crazy Rich Asians follows a young Chinese-American woman, Rachel Chu played by the brilliant Constance Wu, who travels to Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young played by the dashing Henry Golding, to attend his best friend Colin’s wedding. Of course, Rachel eventually finds out that her boyfriend actually comes from a LOT of money and is basically Singaporean royalty.
The movie follows a classic trail of fighting to be accepted by your partner’s family and proving that you’re worthy of their golden child, being knocked down, and then getting back up and making the tough choices.
Constance Wu carries herself beautifully in this film and she plays off Henry Golding’s charm really brilliantly. The pair worked well together on screen and you can’t help but be pulled into their corner. You’re rooting for them the entire time and wondering why this is their first Hollywood studio film.
When Rachel meets Nick’s family, she’s thrown into the deep end right away. From snobby typical aunties to shallow men and even shallower mean women, Rachel is immediately made to feel unworthy of the Young family’s crown prince and it’s clear from the get go that they will do anything to sabotage this relationship.
Predictably, Rachel struggles. Sometimes it’s comical – like mistaking Nick’s grandmother for the cook – and other times it’s downright heart-breaking. We see Rachel face some truly terrible things and people but she stands up to them all with grace and strength at all times.
There are some shining lights in Rachel’s Singapore adventure in the form of Nick’s cousin Astrid played by the gorgeous Gemma Chan, another cousin Oliver played by Nico Santos, and the quirky college friend Peik Lin played by Awkwafina in a splendid blonde wig who provides just the right kind of comic relief.
We also get see a lot of Singapore from the delicious street food to the Garden’s by the Bay and Marina Bay Sands and even a quaint little mahjong place in the old town. Everything is beautiful and familiar, even the superstitions and stereotypes. And if you’re part of the Singapore elite, then the luxury and lavishness might strike a chord as well.
Just a little side note: I have to say, although Henry Golding and Constance Wu were both charming and endearing, my heart was stolen by the elegant Gemma Chan as Astrid Leong. She was poised, caring and entirely a badass strong woman. She has her own little subplot going on in this movie about her crumbling marriage and her husband’s insecurities: ‘It’s not my job to make you feel like a man’ – that was iconic. It’s a scene that is now on my list of top movie moments.
Back to business. Nick’s mother Eleanor, portrayed by the legendary Michelle Yeoh, is of course disapproving of Rachel as well. We learn midway through the movie that she didn’t exactly have the approval of her then future mother-in-law either, which makes her disapproval of Rachel quite hypocritical to say the least. Michelle Yeoh, looking like she hasn’t aged in over two decades, commands whatever scene she is in. She switches between her tender, motherly persona with Nick and her steely demeanour towards Rachel quite effortlessly. It’s not surprising then that she’s the one that successfully drives Rachel away.
At this point, I want to say that I think Nick Young is a refreshing character to the usual troupe of a rich young man with a good heart who is afraid of letting his family down. Nick Young, from the get go, is ready to walk away from everything for the love of his life and he always defends her. He’s not perfect, of course. He should’ve done a better job at preparing Rachel for the absolute nightmare that is his extended family, but overall, he never gives up on her and he never falters in his love for her, not even when his mother dug up a scandalous piece of information about Rachel’s father. Heck, he disobeys his grandmother’s express wishes and runs after her. If you’re Asian, you know just how difficult that is. So Nick is clear about what he wants and that, my friends, is a catch. And also his relationship with his best friend, Colin is precious as well. There’s an unabashed expression of affection between the two without any faux machismo to protect their masculinity which is something I think many men, especially Asian men, need to emulate.
Anyway, after all the turmoil and drama, there is of course a happy ending. Rachel and Nick get engaged with the approval of Eleanor and there’s an extravagant party on the rooftop of the Marina Bay Sands, complete with fireworks. Over all, Crazy Rich Asians is a heart-warming and endearing tale of two people coming together despite fierce resistance and of women taking a stand to protect the people that they love. Your classic rom-com set in the luxuries of Singapore.
If you love love, you’ll enjoy this movie. And if you’re a Singaporean, you’ll get a thrill from seeing many familiar sights and scenes on the big screen.
A tip: stay till after the animated credits to spot a beautiful wile Asian cameo. We see Astrid (Gemma Chan) exchange a meaningful glance with an unidentified character played by Harry Shum Jr. which sets up the stage for a possible sequel. Judging from the box office reception of Crazy Rich Asians and certain reports already flying around, I’m sure we will not be disappointed.