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Overall Rating
3.46

Awesome: 23.08%
Worth A Look46.15%
Average: 7.69%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 23.08%

1 review, 7 user ratings


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Crazy Rich Asians
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Good For Everyone"
4 stars

Under normal circumstances, the appearance of a film along the lines of “Crazy Rich Asian” would hardly raise an eyebrow. The adaptation of Kevin Kwan’s best-selling novel is a fusion of comedy, romance and soap opera that is not especially original but has been put together in such an undeniably entertaining manner, fueled in no small part by a highly engaging cast, that you don’t mind the basic predictability of the narrative. However, as the title itself subtly indicate, these are not normal circumstances and “Crazy Rich Asians,” as insane as it may sound, is actually the first time that a major Hollywood studio has produced a film with an exclusively Asian cast since the release of “The Joy Luck Club” a full quarter-century earlier. As a result, for members of the Asian community, the existence of the film will doubtlessly hold a place of import that someone like myself, who sees representations of himself on the screen virtually every time he sits down at the multiplex, could not possibly begin to understand. However, what is most impressive about the movie is that it tells a high-spirited and deliciously entertaining film that can be embraced by all cultures while remaining a distinctive and often fascinating representation of its own.

Asian-American Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) is a respected economics professor at NYU and as the story opens, her boyfriend, Nick Young (Henry Golding) has just asked her to come with him to Singapore, where he is to serve as best man at the wedding of his best friend, Colin (Chris Pang). Since she has never met Nick’s family before and because her best friend from college, Peik Li (Akwafina), lives there, she agrees. To her knowledge, Nick is just like her—ridiculously attractive and profoundly middle-class—but her first clue that something isn’t right comes when they arrive at the airport for their flight and, instead of being crammed into the economy section, are escorted to the kind of first-class section that actual first-class sections might dream about becoming someday. Nick shrugs the extravagance off by telling her it is just a perk as the result of a family connection and that his family is comfortable, certainly, but not necessarily rich. Before meeting the rest of the family, Rachel visits Peik and her family and learns to her shock that the Youngs are way beyond being rich—their family essentially helped develop Singapore out of nothing a century earlier and their business interests have made them almost unfathomably wealthy with Nick as the heir apparent to everything when his father finally elects to step down.

Although reeling from all this new information, Rachel is determined to make the best of it when she arrives at the party being thrown by Henry’s eccentric aunts—a shindig opulent enough to make a Jay Gatsby soiree look like a kegger. When she finally meets Henry’s mother, Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh), however, it doesn’t go over very well—although outwardly polite enough, Eleanor is disdainful of Rachel due to her heritage and by what she feels is an unseemly and extremely American ideals about personal ambition (even being a professor at NYU is a demerit in her mind) and clearly disapproves of her as a potential wife for her golden boy son. While the two of them begin a quiet battle of wills, others, assuming that Rachel is nothing more than a common gold digger, do what they can to try to drive this interloper away using more direct means. However, Rachel is no pushover and is determined to stand her ground against those who would dismiss her and thanks to the help of Peik and Oliver (Nico Santos), a sympathetic cousin of Nick’s, she is able to look fabulous while doing it.

As previously noted, “Crazy Rich Asians” is the first American studio film in 25 years to feature an exclusively Asian cast but one of the best things about it is that it doesn’t act like it that is the case. If it had, it would have almost certainly taken a more noble approach designed to underscore just how “Asian” it was and it probably would have also taken the time to explain various cultural details in excruciating detail in an attempt to keep non-Asians moviegoers from getting confused. If that didn’t help, it might have had those details watered down or eliminated completely in a deeply misguided effort to appeal to a wider audience. (I understand that at one point in the early development process, someone proposed making Rachel into a non-Asian character, a move that was immediately and wisely discarded.) Instead, the film just goes along its own path by dealing with its take on shifting social and cultural norms in contemporary China—with Eleanor representing the attitudes of an older generation and Rachel and Nick standing in for a new way of thinking—and just assuming that viewers will be able to keep up, regardless of their ethnic extraction. This material is handled especially well because screenwriters Peter Chiarelli and Adele Lim and director Jon M. Chu have smartly resisted the urge to make Eleanor into a one-note meanie who exists only to try and keep Rachel and Henry apart—although the film is always in Rachel’s favor, Eleanor’s objections are not necessarily dumb and she is still presented with a surprising degree of dignity and respect throughout that allows viewers to empathize with her point-of-view even as they are rooting for Rachel to triumph over her.

This stuff does give “Crazy Rich Asians” a little bit of gravity but the film is clearly trying to be a blatantly sudsy romp filled with colorful and ridiculously attractive people, shocking plot twists and startling opulence and on this level, it is an undeniable triumph. Yes, the story is contrived as can be but a film like this can survive something like that if it is presented in a stylish and entertaining manner and involves characters that we genuinely care about and in both cases here, it succeeds. As played by Wu, Rachel is such an insanely likable person that we find ourselves rooting for her almost from the moment she first appears and that helps give viewers of all stripes a way of identifying with her character. She (as does Nick, to a lesser extent) serves as our guide to the wild excess that surrounds them all the time—ranging from an exquisitely laid-out dining room table to a freighter in international waters that has been rigged out for the most ostentatious bachelor party imaginable—and helps us recognize both the pleasures and perils of such wealthy overkill. The screenplay also demonstrates a lot of wit throughout as well (at one point, Peik’s father, played by Ken Jeong, admonishes his younger children to finish their lunches because “there are starving children in America”) and keeps the love story chugging along enough so that even though the conclusion of the story is never really in doubt, I still found myself caring about what would happen regardless.

Admittedly, some of the plot developments of “Crazy Rich Asians” are a little contrived (it does not seem possible that Rachel could be dating one of the world’s richest and most eligible young men and somehow be unaware of that fact), some of the additional plot threads (chiefly one about an uncommonly noble cousin of Nick’s and her rotter of a husband) are a bit of a distraction and there are times when Chu spends perhaps a little too much time basking in the opulence that he is presenting to be regarded simply as satire. As a whole, however, the film is an undeniably entertaining experience that tells a universal story with a degree of cultural specificity that helps to make it even more engrossing. If the film hits as big as it should, hopefully it will inspire Hollywood to take a chance on making more movies centering on other normally marginalized ethnic and cultural groups. If that happens, maybe a day will one day come when the mere existence of a film like this is not considered to be especially remarkable.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=31491&reviewer=389
originally posted: 08/15/18 22:07:23
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User Comments

11/04/18 Bob Dog Louise, i want to bum you off ! ! !. 5 stars
9/26/18 Louise Yes Bob Dog, as a matter of fact i did ! ! !. 1 stars
9/12/18 Bob Dog Louise, did you get so embarrassed because you`re a rich WASP who hates rich Asians ?. 5 stars
9/04/18 Louise Perhaps there are, but that still didn`t diminish my embarrassment levels. 1 stars
8/30/18 Bob Dog "Eat your nuggets - don't you know there are children starving in America?" 5 stars
8/19/18 Louise I`ve never felt so embarrassed watching a movie as i did watching this one. 1 stars
8/19/18 Lol A good rating based almost entirely on virtue signaling. KYS. 3 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  15-Aug-2018 (PG-13)
  DVD: 20-Nov-2018

UK
  N/A

Australia
  15-Aug-2018
  DVD: 20-Nov-2018


Directed by
  Jon M. Chu

Written by
  Pete Chiarelli

Cast
  Constance Wu
  Michelle Yeoh
  Henry Golding
  Gemma Chan
  Awkwafina
  Ken Jeong



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