Spicing up the traditional rom-com formula by substituting Westerners with Asians and a focus on a modern Asian city-state, “Crazy Rich Asians” (adapter from the best-selling novel of the same name) dazzles and mesmerises with extravagant set-design, wonderful acting and a thoroughly touching plot.
This rom-com revolves around the relationship of Rachel Chu (played by Constance Wu) and Nick Young (played by Henry Golding) – and the pair’s journey to Singapore to attend Nick’s best friend Colin’s wedding. At Singapore, Rachel meets Nick’s family, who turn out to be “crazy rich”, being a family of wealthy real estate developers. She runs into some conflict with Nick’s mother, Eleanor (played by Michelle Yeoh), who does not fancy Rachel, due to her middle class Chinese American background. Eleanor describes Rachel as someone who will “never be good enough for Nick”. Coupled with some next-level bullying by jealous rich ladies, Rachel reconsiders even going for Colin’s wedding.
Convinced by her college friend Peik Lin (played by Awkwafina) to attend, what follows is far and away the most gorgeous scene in the movie (with a fairy-tale-styled CHJIMES front and centre) as well as a significant turning point in Nick’s perception of Rachel’s tenacity. Expecting his family to seem intimidating, giving Rachel no choice but to sit at the back, she instead showcases her uniqueness by scoring a seat (through some an interesting conversation) next to someone even the wealthy socialites dare not approach. Surprised, Nick finds it even clearer that Rachel is the one for him.
Already a rising star for her work in shows such as “Fresh Off the Boat”, Constance Wu, playing Rachel Chu, steals the show, even from the legendary Michelle Yeoh. Wu showcases a steely personality, bent on proving her worth to the matriarch. She sticks to her guns, sporadically exhibiting the witty, biting humour that made her such a joy to watch on “Fresh Off the Boat”. Her emotional range is impressive, from vulnerable to passive-aggressive, Wu pulls off the shift effortlessly.
Though it does have superb acting, gorgeous set-design and an emotionally-resonant plot, “Crazy Rich Asians” stumbles in showing an accurate slice of Singapore’s demographic. Other than the Chinese, only a handful of Indians and other races are seen. Even then, they play insignificant roles in the overall story of the film. Another minor (but personal) gripe I have with it is that the Singaporean actors and actresses, apart from Tan Kheng Hua, seem to have drawn the short straw, as they play less glamorous and perhaps even scandalous roles. All that said, I have to give credit where it’s due (and ignore my personal gripes for the purposes of this review) and award “Crazy Rich Asians” four and a half stars out of five.
“Crazy Rich Asians” puts on a dazzling show, with excellent acting and a touching plot, though it falls short in certain areas such as racial representation. You’ll be doing an injustice to yourself if you don’t watch this movie, especially if you’re a Singaporean.
Overall Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐✨