At a time when Hollywood still struggles with minority representation in film and media, Crazy Rich Asians is the perfect answer. Embracing an all Asian cast, this movie is funny, heartfelt and entirely self-aware.
Crazy Rich Asians is a story about love, family, and tradition. Chinese-American Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) is accompanying her boyfriend Nick Young (Henry Golding) on a trip to Singapore for a wedding. While there, Rachel is going to be meeting his family for the first time. But there is one problem. Rachel quickly learns that Nick comes from a wealthy and influential family in Asia and, as the favorite son, he is expected to follow tradition and take over the family business. This puts Rachel in an uncomfortable and difficult position, as she will attempt to win over the family and prove herself.
While in Singapore, Rachel faces criticism. She is an outsider and, as a Chinese-American, she isn’t really Asian, because she grew up with a different culture and mindset. Nick, however, isn’t fully aware of what is going on until things get worse. He, too, is having a difficult time because of the pressure and responsibility to do what is expected of him, even if it isn’t what he wants.
In every other way, Crazy Rich Asians is your typical romantic comedy, and it works. In the same way that Love, Simon and Black Panther used a familiar model of storytelling and adapted it for the screen to celebrate diversity, this story feels as normal as ever. That’s because it is.
Ken Jeong and Awkwafina serve as the film’s comedic relief and it pays off. In an early screening, they brought about the biggest and loudest laughter from the audience.
At no point does Crazy Rich Asians perpetuate or focus on stereotypes. Ken Jeong comes close by briefly playing up an accent when his character his first reduced but quickly snaps out of it to say he was joking and that he went to school at Cal State Fullerton, now speaking in his own American accent.
This is important because of Hollywood’s history of not only underrepresenting minorities, especially Asians, but because of its history of misrepresentation, often involving racist attitudes and stereotypes.
If this film is a turning point in how minorities, and Asians in particular, are shown in film and how the mainstream embraces different faces, skin tones, and cultures, that would be a very good thing to happen. There is simply no reason these stories can’t be told by people who look or sound different and it is time Hollywood gets on board with that because it is clear that the audience already is.