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Review: ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ is a funny escapist comedy (Includes first-hand account)

Meeting your significant others’ family and/or friends is generally a sign the relationship is getting more serious; the gravity increases when the introduction requires large, ticketed transportation. However daunting this encounter may seem, it can be even more so if you gradually discover you know very little about these people and consequently how to ensure they like you… because whatever happens here could mean relaxed or dreaded family gatherings going forward — if there even is a next time. In Crazy Rich Asians, a young woman makes the trip to meet her boyfriend’s family for the first time without knowing she’s about to enter the inner sanctum of a Chinese dynasty.

Rachel (Constance Wu) is an economics professor in New York, where she and Nick (Henry Golding) have spent the last year together in relationship bliss. However, they’ve been dating for more than a year and she’s only ever met his sister (Gemma Chan) because his very large family lives overseas. But his cousin/best friend’s wedding is just the occasion to finally bring Rachel home to meet everyone. Her first indication that this isn’t going to be an ordinary vacation is their super luxurious, first-class flight accommodations to Singapore. When Nick describes his family’s holdings as “comfortable,” Rachel immediately interprets that to be “super rich;” which is later confirmed by her trendy, loud-mouthed, local friend Peik Lin (Awkwafina). Rachel’s first introductions are wonderful, but it turns out not everyone is pleased the heir to the family fortune wants to marry a common American even if she is Chinese.

This is a classic rom-com narrative that’s been transported to the East, which adds its own mark to the genre’s traditions. In spite of finding out she knows less than she thought about Nick’s family, Rachel is still very optimistic that she’ll make a good first impression — a notion supported by her welcoming encounter with the soon-to-be newlyweds. Peik Lin, however, has watched the family’s exclusivity from afar like most of the rest of Asia, and warns her friend of the hoops and hurdles that may be ahead. The primary obstacle is Nick’s mother (Michelle Yeoh), who bluntly tells Rachel she’s “not good enough” to marry her son. Rachel is persistent, but one starts to question how much pushback one person can take — especially so far from home.

There are a number of jaw-dropping scenes in the film, from the stinger mentioned above to the aerial view of Nick’s childhood estate to one of the most stunning and moving weddings ever shown on screen. There’s also several cringe-worthy moments, but they don’t have much impact on the film’s overall enjoyment as they work within the context of the narrative. Many of the characters are over-the-top stereotypes, though that works really well in the landscape of the nouveau riche and always-rich spoiled brats. Peik Lin and her family, which includes her inappropriate dad (Ken Jeong) and stalker brother (Calvin Wong), are always sources of amusement that frequently help break up heavy or conventional scenes, like a heartfelt family reunion or fashion montage.

Based on the first book in a series/trilogy by Kevin Kwan, this modern rom-com is the first Hollywood movie in 25 years to feature an all-Asian cast — yet the story it tells is universally entertaining, which once again demonstrates alternative casting doesn’t equate narrower audiences.

Director: Jon M. Chu
Starring: Constance Wu, Henry Golding and Michelle Yeoh

Written By

Sarah Gopaul is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for film news, a member of the Online Film Critics Society and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer-approved critic.

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