Romantic relationships are rarely just about the two people in love. At some point your family and friends, the individuals key in shaping the person you have become, must be factored in as well. It is in the delicate steps one must often take when attempting to navigate a significant other’s family that Jon M. Chu’s Crazy Rich Asians finds much humour and reflection in.
Based on Kevin Kwan’s popular novel, the film follows Rachel Chu (Constance Wu), an established economics professor at NYU, who agrees to join her boyfriend, Nick Young (Henry Golding), on a trip to Singapore to attend his best friend’s wedding. Excited to meet Nick’s family, Rachel does not realize the what she is walking into. Nick may appear to be a man of modest means, but he has kept hidden that he is from a family so rich that they are treated like royalty in the country. Furthermore, Nick is next in line to take over the family’s vast empire and the last thing his stern mother, Elanor (Michelle Yeoh), wants is an outsider derailing plans that were set in motion long before Nick and Rachel met.
There has already been plenty of press written on the fact that Crazy Rich Asians is the first major studio film in two decades to feature a predominantly Asian cast and crew. However, what makes the film a truly memorable romantic comedy is the astute way it understands how tradition and sacrifice can both bring families together and simultaneously tear them apart. When Rachel and Elanor begin to butt heads, there is more beneath the surface than an overprotective mother not seeing anyone being good enough for her son.
The film excels in using comedy to expose the way personal biases and class systems have resulted in a society where appearance and wealth are more valued than happiness and personal achievement. A perfect example of this is the way a mother’s sacrifice is viewed as both being a symbol of strength and a mark of disgrace. Elanor was never a warm mother, abandoning her children to ensure the family business thrived. For this she is revered in her community, as she worked hard to prove her worth, whereas Rachel’s mother is seen as lesser for sacrificing her status for her daughter’s sake.
Filled with a cast of characters that range from endearing, Astrid (Gemma Chan) and Colin (Chris Pang), to over-the-top, Bernard (Jimmy O. Yang) and Peik Lin Goh (Awkwafina), there is truly something for everyone in the film. Hilarious, romantic and more thought-provoking than one would expect, Crazy Rich Asians is a delight from beginning to end.