By DARRELL MIHO, Special to The Rafu
If you’re Asian and you’re breathing, then you’ve probably heard about this movie that opened nationwide Wednesday titled “Crazy Rich Asians,” or CRA for those of you who are texting or snapchatting.
“Crazy Rich Asians” is a romantic comedy set in modern-day Singapore with its glitzy high-rises and exquisite mansions. While the title may include the word “rich,” one should not assume that this movie is about the lifestyle of snobby, rich elitists.
While there are several scenes of over-the-top parties and an island bachelorette party, the movie has a very down-to-earth, family-oriented feel to it.
Based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Kevin Kwan, CRA follows the life of a New York economics professor, Rachel Chu (Constance Wu), and Singaporean elite Nick Young (Henry Golding) as they take a trip to Singapore to attend Nick’s best friend’s wedding.
Anxious and nervous to meet’s Nick’s family for the first time, Rachel is unaware of Nick’s aristocratic family history and soon discovers that he failed to tell her a few details about his family’s wealth. After flying first-class and checking in to a huge suite at one of the finest hotels in Singapore, which the family just so happens to own, Nick sheepishly confesses that his family has a little, no, a LOT of money.
As Rachel discovers the lifestyle of the rich and famous, the movie evolves into some of the many twists and subplots that any rich-vs.-commoner story would explore, from the jealous single ladies spurned by Nick to the disapproving mother, Eleanor Young (Michelle Yeoh), and the sweet but two-faced grandmother, Shang Su Yi (Lisa Lu).
Much like the all-Asian cast movie from 25 years ago that it is being held up to, “The Joy Luck Club,” “Crazy Rich Asians” delves into the complex parent-child relationships of the Asian family and manages to weave those story lines into this well produced movie. Unlike “The Joy Luck Club,” it is a much lighter and funnier movie that will keep you laughing all the way through. If you cried during “The Joy Luck Club,” you may want to bring some tissues as CRA also has some of its own teary-eyed moments.
While Rachel is having a difficult time adjusting to an unfamiliar lifestyle, her college best friend, Goh Peik Lin (Awkwafina), who happens to live in Singapore, is there to support her and provides some harsh but hilarious reality-check moments.
Some of the jokes are very Asian-oriented and may get lost on a non-Asian audience, but overall, I think the storylines will play out very well with the general public. One of the funniest scenes is when Rachel meets her best friend’s father, Goh Wye Lin (Ken Jeong), who has an unbelievably stereotypical and somewhat offensive accent, but I think you’ll learn to enjoy it. You can expect nothing but hysterical when Jeong is in a movie. Unlike his “Hangover” role, he is actually somewhat sane in “Crazy Rich Asians.” Emphasis on somewhat.
If you are expecting a movie in the genre of the “Joy Luck Club,” you will be sadly disappointed, but that’s not to say that “Crazy Rich Asians” is bad. On the contrary, CRA will stand on its own merit. While a lot of the movie is predictable, there are some unexpected twists that will keep you guessing and delightfully entertained.
My recommendation is – go see it. Not because it is the first all-Asian cast Hollywood film in 25 years, but simply because it is very, very good.
Darrell Miho is a photographer and writer specializing in people, sports, travel, architecture and lighting.