Meeting the family of a new boyfriend or girlfriend can be a daunting experience. It can often be a make or break event in budding romances, as the partner is thrown into an unfamiliar environment which is loaded with context. Crazy Rich Asians explores this relational milestone in a way that possibly no film has since the Ben Stiller comedy ‘Meet the Parents’. The adage of ‘marrying the family’ rings uncomfortably true.
The set up is simple. Rachel (the sweet, sparkly-eyed Constance Wu) gets invited by her boyfriend Nick (Henry Golding) to attend a wedding together in Singapore. She sees this as a chance to meet his family and see where he grew up, away from their lives in New York. What Rachel doesn’t know is that Nick’s family are the richest in the land, Nick is something of a celebrity and the wedding they’re attending is the high-society event of the year. Rachel is not only meeting Nick’s family, she’s walking into a whole new world.
Whilst this is a typical rom-com in many ways, many of the conventional tropes are passed over. Our lead characters are already a couple at the start of the film, therefore the traditional meet-cute is conspicuously absent. Whilst this allows the script to cut straight to the crux of the story, it does hinder the audience from building an affinity with and affection toward the on-screen couple, naturally reducing the emotional investment we have in them amidst the challenges they face. It’s only when Rachel meets Nick’s mother (an imperious Michelle Yeoh) that the tension starts to build and the tone of the film becomes more interesting. Mrs Young disapproves of Rachel as a possible bride for Nick and it’s through this initial tension and the ensuing scenarios that the characters start to develop and the audience finds who they want to root for. As the story progresses and the inevitable begins to play out, the emotional buy-in and the humour begin to really hit home. Awkwafina is brilliant as Peik Lin, Rachel’s friend and confidante, and she provides well-timed levity to the middle act.
The film, adapted from the Kevin Kwan novel of the same name, delivers on its title and clearly carries pride in having an all Asian cast (a first for a major studio film this century). Director Jon M. Chu revels in this, using every cut between scenes to show us the colourful Singaporean setting through lavish costume and set design. This film is as bold a statement as the title is itself. Netflix wanted to produce the film and offered a much bigger budget, but director Jon M. Chu turned down the offer in favour of a modest $30-million budget from Warner Bros in order to send a message that Asian-American studio movies are commercially viable. In this sense, Crazy Rich Asians is undoubtedly a triumph, and one that will hopefully lead to more culturally diverse productions from Hollywood studios, following in the footsteps of Black Panther and The Big Sick.
Overall, the film is a warm and entertaining film that skilfully transitions from a gentle rom-com for the most part to a moving family drama in its final act. The ideal film for a date night.
Rating - 8/10
Crazy Rich Asians opens in cinemas this Friday (14/09/2018). Book your tickets here.