Crazy Rich Asians—A Triumphant Romantic Comedy

If you’ve ever splayed out on the couch with a bottle of wine and a bowl of ice cream (which let’s face it, we all have done), you might have noticed that there is a substantial portion of sub-par romantic comedies available to compliment your snack.

Among the dozens of movies featuring sappy, tear-filled proposals and cheesy banter, there’s a small selection of good romantic comedies that leave a genuine smile on your face once the credits roll. Recently, Crazy Rich Asians emerged as a new, personal favorite.

Crazy Rich Asians compiles all of the ingredients necessary for not just a solid romantic comedy but a well-rounded, enjoyable movie. The actors are talented, the humor is fresh, the food is abundant and mouth-watering, and the scenery of Singapore undoubtedly incites a little wanderlust in us all. In addition to these visible attributes, the movie showcases dynamic achievements that make it deserving of its box office and critical success.

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

To begin, the actors themselves are a refreshing change from the staple all-white cast that typically dominates the genre. Hollywood films feature such a low percentage of Asian actors and actresses that a movie devoted to expanding casts of talented minority actors and actresses was long overdue.

And the actors were a pleasure to watch! The film presents a diverse array of characters to both contest and fall in love with. There’s Nick Young’s (Henry Golding) cousin Eddie (Ronny Chieng) who will never win your heart with his depth and kindness but is worth a begrudged laugh for the unbridled animosity he provokes from his wife.

Then there’s the endearing soon to be newlyweds, Araminta (Sonoya Mizuno) and Colin (Chris Pang) who function as much needed buffers against the overwhelming horde of material personalities (what a relief that Nick Young could helicopter them off that ship!).

Easily two of most treasured characters, however, are Oliver T’sien (Nico Santos) and Peik Lin Goh (Awkwafina). Oliver, the family’s “rainbow sheep,” charms everyone with his witty quips and aura of originality that make Rachel and audiences alike feel as if they’re surrounded by the promise of instant friendship. His bright charisma is wonderfully complemented by Peik Lin, one of the genre’s most delightful “best friend” figures to date.

In moments where Nick drastically falls short in preparing Rachel for the escapade of meeting his family, Peik Lin steps in as Rachel’s loyal and comically honest savior. She ensures Rachel is dressed properly for formal events, offers her constant support in moments of turmoil, and manages to complete her other best friend duties with a cocktail dress on hand, and a selfie-ready appearance. The fact that her family is outrageously funny only adds value to every scene in which she dominates the comedic atmosphere.

Credit: Sanja Bucko / Warner Bros. Pictures

The two women responsible for contributing that crucial layer of depth to the movie are Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) and Eleanor Young (Michelle Yeoh). The classic trope of parental disapproval levied towards their kid’s partner is showcased in the film when western “pursuit of individual happiness” values clash with eastern traditions of family and legacy. Namely, Eleanor Young is displeased to learn that her son and the prime candidate to inherit the family empire has fallen in love with Rachel, a woman Eleanor believes embodies the American ideal and threatens the prosperity of her son’s future.

Eleanor is an easy character to dislike, but an impossible character to hate. In her youth, she was given the option to pursue that career-driven independence Rachel so passionately treasures, but forfeited it out of love and devotion to building what she believes is “something that will last.” While she acknowledges her decision was both traditional and required severe personal sacrifice, she stands firm in her protection of the family legacy. Her coldness towards Rachel can easily unsettle audiences, but it cannot discount the complexity of her character nor her steadfast commitment to her values.

It is disheartening to learn she did not have Ah Ma’s (Lisa Lu) approval to marry her husband, and heartbreaking to witness Ah Ma’s continual animosity towards her every move. She has built her existence around proving to Ah Ma that she is deserving of the role of her husband’s wife and a vital contributor to the family’s empire. Rachel, while entirely undeserving of Eleanor’s frost, represents the unraveling of a web that Eleanor sacrificed her personal happiness to preserve.

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Constance Wu deserved her Golden Globe nomination, not merely for bringing to life a spirited, bright academic, but for her empowering performance in the pivotal mahjong scene with Eleanor. Composed, articulate, and utterly yet humbly in control, Rachel delivers a moment of redemption unparalleled in other romantic comedies.

She not only wins the match but also wins Eleanor’s respect by proving that she too understands sacrifice. Eleanor once gave up raising Nick in order to win Ah Ma’s favor. Now Rachel will give up Nick so that he can continue to build upon his family’s legacy, and so he will never again have to be without a mom.

The cultural clash, as well as the class and ideological divide, shatters as Rachel’s sacrifice becomes personal. For a moment, we forget to anguish over a failed romance, because the prospect of casting aside one’s mother moves to the forefront of the theme of loss. Rachel proves she understands how to preserve the family, and when Eleanor watches the embrace shared between mother and daughter, audiences are overwhelmed with a sense of victory – not to mention the desire to go and hug their mom.

Like every solid romantic comedy, we were also given a happy ending. Eleanor gives her approval, Nick delivers his climatic proposal on the airplane, and one final plot twist emerges from the box in the form of Eleanor’s personal engagement ring. There’s laughter, there are tears, and a huge party is thrown in celebration. It’s a typical conclusion but we must applaud the surprise felt from seeing Eleanor’s ring. And after watching a movie that showcased the lavish “crazy rich” lifestyle of its protagonists, a grand finale is rather fitting.

If you haven’t seen it yet, Crazy Rich Asians is a must-watch movie with friends, family, or that bottle of wine and bowl of ice cream. Kick back on a Friday night for a few hours of worthwhile entertainment! You’ll want to watch it again and again and again.

 

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