It’s hard to talk about Crazy Rich Asians without addressing the obvious. This movie is a massive deal. There hasn’t been a studio Hollywood film with an exclusively Asian cast in over 25 years. The success of this film could lead to bigger and better things not only for its charismatic stars and the talented people behind the camera but to many others as well. But that’s not why you should go see it. The truly great thing about Crazy Rich Asians is it would still be a very good film even if representation had nothing to do with it. And also Michelle Yeoh. You should go see it because of Michelle Yeoh.
When American-born NYU professor Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) agrees to travel with her longtime boyfriend Nick (Henry Golding) to Singapore for his best friend’s wedding and to meet his family, she realizes he hasn’t properly prepared her for this visit. His family is rich. Old money rich. Crazy rich. Rachel is thrust into a world of scheming social climbers and nasty relatives. She begins to feel very insecure in a world where she may never measure up to what Nick’s family expects for him.
Constance Wu may as well be Julia Roberts. She’s the effervescent, lovable romantic comedy heroine you root for from the start. She’s the relatable underdog in this story, and the audience is behind her every step of the way. First-time actor/former British TV host Henry Golding is a real find as the exceptionally charming Nick. It would be very easy to dislike Nick, considering how he drops Rachel into this war zone without any armor. But he’s the rom-com lead that always says the right thing in the right way, and it’s hard to stay mad at him. And also, Rachel has to create this armor on her own. Perhaps that’s the point.
Awkwafina steals every scene, as Rachel’s college friend that she reunites with in Singapore. She’s absolutely hilarious, even better than she was in Ocean’s 8. She’s a total breath of fresh air and I definitely see her career going to great places. Gemma Chan is also a standout as one of the only relatives who is kind to Rachel off the bat. She has a memorable moment near the end that led to applause at my screening. I’m hoping her character can be explored further if they decide to move ahead with a sequel.
But the biggest star of this show is Michelle Yeoh as Nick’s mother Eleanor. She’s the impeccably costumed ice queen who everyone is desperate to impress. She has such presence every time she’s in the frame. She reminded me of Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada. She would never raise her voice, but she doesn’t have to. She gets her point across with merely a glance. If nothing else comes from this movie, I’m hoping it’s Michelle Yeoh in a juicy leading role. I’d watch her do anything.
In the end, Crazy Rich Asians is a delightful champagne cocktail of a movie. It’s a zippy, wildly entertaining screwball romantic comedy that looks absolutely gorgeous (Singapore tourism is sure to get a spike in the coming months) and is filled with very good performances. It harkens back to when Nora Ephron and Nancy Meyers were leading the rom-com game. It’s based on Kevin Kwan’s trilogy of books and hints at where a sequel could go. Crazy Rich Asians comes highly recommended, and it shouldn’t have to mean everything to everyone. I hope it leads to more substantial things for representation among the Asian community, but that’s not why you should go see it. See it because it’s two hours of pure, fun, escapist beauty. You’ll definitely want to spend more time in the lavish world of these characters.