CRAZY RICH ASIANS -- Grade: B
Updated: Aug 24, 2018
This new rom-com told from a female POV is all that and a brightly-colored bag of chips.
Adapted by Peter Chiarelli and Adele Lim from Kevin Kwan's bestselling novel, Crazy Rich Asians arrives on the big screen with the weight of representing an entire culture resting on it, and takes on the task with a joyful confidence. It's all anchored by hella impressive performances by Constance Wu (Fresh Off the Boat) and Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and tons of other stuff), each creating a complex portrait of a strong, smart woman.
Wu plays Rachel, an economics professor at NYU whose boyfriend Nick (Henry Golding) takes her home to Singapore, where he's going to be best man at a wedding -- and where she soon discovers that his family is not just well-off, but mega-wealthy. She's coached through some of the local customs by her colorful college pal Peik Lin (Awkwafina), but as confident and cool as Rachel is, she's still blown away by the ice storm she faces from Nick's disapproving mother (Yeoh) and Singapore's eligible bachelorettes.
The women definitely drive the story here, which is fitting for this matriarchal clan. There's an affecting subplot featuring Nick's cousin Astrid (Gemma Chan), whose own marriage to a "commoner" is struggling, and Nick's father is never even seen. It's his mother, grandmother (an amazing Lisa Lu) and the extended group of "aunties" who rule the roost.
Director Jon M. Chu, who's best known for the Step Up series of dance movies, really pulls out all the visual stops here -- this film is gorgeous, from the beautifully shot locations to the stunning production design to the jaw-dropping wardrobe. Oh, and the Chinese versions of '90s American pop tunes is awesome.
But the film isn't perfect -- especially from a feminist point of view. The Cinderella trope gets ridden hard. And wouldn't you be hella pissed if your boyfriend threw you into a situation like this with absolutely no warning and no advice on how to deal with it?
And why doesn't Nick try harder to see Rachel instead of letting her wallow in despair for days after that big plot-twist reveal? And here's a radical thought: instead of them riding off into the sunset together, maybe they do agree to go their separate ways. (See the equally effective Set It Up on Netflix for the kind of mixed happy ending.)
Then again, any movie whose heroine is an econ prof who's an expert on game theory -- and then uses that knowledge to her advantage against a formidable opponent is okay with me.
Femme Critic Score:
Female Writer: Co-written by a woman
Female Director: Nope, but P.O.C at least
Female Cast: Definitely
Passes the Bechdel Test: Yeah, but male-female relationships are a major topic of convo.