I was rich once...no, no I wasn't. But I was married once...no, that was a lie too...but I loved once and I even used to have some money!
"Crazy Rich Asians" is the story of when Nick Young takes his girlfriend, Rachel Chu, to Singapore for a wedding where she gets the chance to meet Nick's family for the first time. However, it turns out that his family is...well...'crazy rich'. When they arrive it becomes apparent that Nick's mother doesn't quite approve of his new girlfriend. So will they figure out how to put their differences aside or will this be the end of Nick and Rachel as we know it?!
The romance of a lifetime! In that, it's a romance that we've already seen in our lifetime.
So from the plot, it's fairly obvious that we have seen several times before; whether it be "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner", "Meet the Parents", "My Big Fat Greek Wedding", etc. Anyone could probably picture in their head how this film might play out and they would be exactly right. It has every cliche in the Rom-Com book. The characters are every stereotype we've seen before. The story is one-hundred percent predictable at every turn. Yet, somehow, this manages to be a very genuine and even sweet film. I was able to accept the constant cliches, the wildly familiar archetypes and the lack of ambition in narrative because I found most of the characters likable and even enjoyed the exploration of Asian culture. By all accounts, this was a rehash of a movie that has been made countless times in the past, but it was a good example of how to work with something that is familiar yet finding a way to make it still entertaining.
In the opening scene the film establishes everything that one needs to know about the Young family, specifically the character of Nick's mother, Eleanor. This family can make one quick phone call and they are immediately the brand new owners of a five star, high class hotel in London. This family has powerful connections and Eleanor is always at the ready to use that to vindictively strike at anyone who threatens them. This intro really does help set up the mother and why she is the way she is when Rachel comes into the picture. Eleanor is basically another iteration of Robert De Niro's character in "Meet the Parents"; she's quick to judge Rachel for being a mistake for Nick to be with, resulting in her trying to put a wedge between the two in hopes to break them up. Nick is pretty much golden child of the family, especially to his mother, and is in line to take up the mantle for the family business. He's smart, successful and completely responsible; practically the perfect guy with seemingly no flaws at all. And Rachel is an economics teacher at N.Y.U. who loves her job in benefiting youths' lives. Daughter of a single mother who raised her all of her life after her father passed away before she was born. She too is successful in her career, but not quite to the standards of the Young family.
A huge factor that held this film together for me and kept me from being irritated by the familiarity of it all is how much personality is interjected into these characters. I believe that to be heavily due to the terrific actors who do their best with their roles. I wouldn't say that there is anything groundbreaking or even Oscar worthy by any means, but the actors involved supply enough charisma and depth in character that I couldn't help myself from being somewhat invested in the story. Michelle Yeoh as Eleanor in particular gives a layered performance that is interesting and understandable, especially when the relationship between Eleanor and her mother-in-law is revealed. You get where her character is coming from and why she is as strict as she is when it comes to Nick and his decisions. On the other hand, you certainly don't agree with Eleanor interfering in Nick and Rachel's lives the way that she does. Instead, it is fairly easy to route for Rachel to persuade Eleanor, or at the very least prevail against Eleanor's efforts to cut her out of the picture. When Nick and Rachel share scenes together, their relationship is extremely cute, and was actually touching in one scene in particular involving the wedding that they were invited to attend. Plus, the acting on Constance Wu's part as Rachel is very solid work; it's near impossible not to feel a bit of emotion any time something stressful happens to Rachel to the point where it makes her eyes start to well up.
So what if the story isn't original? *Spoilers Ahead*
Like I've said, this is a story seen so many times before that it'd be insane if someone didn't know where this film was going. The boyfriend/girlfriend takes girlfriend/boyfriend to meet the family. The family, specifically one parental role, disapproves or is weary of the relationship. That parent does everything they can to sabotage the romance. The 'outsider' does everything they can to brush their efforts off and persevere. There's a number of quirky characters that add to the wackiness and stress of our main character. Once the third act hits, there's a big misunderstanding that leads to the two romantic leads to break up. They spend the next several minutes in heart break over the loss of their love. But in the last remaining moments, love concurs all. The romantic leads realize that they love each other and they have no reason to be apart while the judgmental parent finally learns the error of their ways and accepts the newcomer into the family. The end.
So what makes this a more enjoyable pill to swallow than say something like "Meet the Fockers"? Aside from the acting doing a good job at making the characters feel lively, the writing makes an effort to put its own unique spin on every event that happens in the movie. The misunderstanding is something that is something that goes beyond even the knowledge of our lead characters and there's no real way that it could have been cleared up prior to when it is brought up in the narrative. The rivalry between the girlfriend and the significant other's mother doesn't come across as naive on anyone's part, but rather it comes from a place of honor and tradition for the Young family.
Speaking of the Young family, there is a decent amount of care in detail provided with the extended family of Nick. Taking a peak into the lives of several of his cousins, showing several examples of what a significant fortune does to a large family. There's the ones living the care-free, rock star lifestyle. Others that just pour money practically into every aspect of their lives. The most interesting, however, is the cousin Astrid who is going through a sort of rough patch in her marriage with a man who also wasn't seen as a 'worthy' inclusion of the Young family. The dynamic between Astrid and how she tries to keep her family, as well as her money, completely separate from her husband because it somehow makes him feel inept. Again, it is a subplot that is predictable from the start, but I thought that the acting was good enough to support it and I also liked the character arc of Astrid.
The culture that all of this takes place in gives everything its own interesting context, as well as a unique flavor. This film is very stylish in how the scenes are lit and edited; I mean, it never hurts to supply some eye candy to the movie and with the Chinese aesthetics displayed all throughout the film, it does have some beautiful imagery. The most impressive of which has to be the wedding scene. In all honesty, the wedding sequence was possibly one of the most visually appealing weddings that I had ever seen in a movie; it was truly gorgeous to watch as it went along.
Another aspect about this movie that probably helps it stand strong is that it actually is relatively funny. The comedy here, for the most part, is handled very well. It doesn't feel like a string of juvenile or sophomoric humor being shoved into the movie, nor does it try to make the dialog into two hours worth sex puns. Thankfully it also doesn't take part in a modern trend I'm sick of with the actors providing line-o-rama the whole run time. The comedy is much more character based and feels natural from where the jokes stem from. With that said, however, there is one character where the comedy felt particularly forced. That, for me, was in the supporting character of Peik Lin Goh who is played by Awkwafina. I found her remarkably annoying. For some reason Peik felt like the least natural part of this whole film and could have undoubtedly been cut from the film with a simple rewrite. The actress's style of comedy was just obnoxious and constantly mugging to the camera, I found that grating to watch. Especially when everyone else is so good and is already funny on their own, so it feels pointless to include this supporting comic relief that doesn't match the tone for the rest of the cast. There were a couple of moments where she was 'fine', but any time she popped up on screen I wanted to chuck her out a window.
So my final thoughts are that...yes, this has been done before. But when it's done right, then why fight it? Just enjoy the ride. And that is exactly what I did. I sat back and enjoyed the ride. I delighted by the characters, I had my fair share of laughs, I admired the visual spectacle of the film's locations and aesthetics, I knew where the plot was going and I was okay with that. There was one character that I slightly hated and wished was dead, but if that's the worst thing that I can say about this movie then I declare this to be rather a success. If you would like to just have a date night and watch some cute movie fluff then this is pretty perfect for that. Check it out and turn your brains off.
Crazy Rich Asians Amazon Prime Video
© 2018 John Plocar