Movie Review: Crazy Rich Asians (2018)
I was bored. Sorry.
I misread the title, too. I thought it meant “crazy and rich” rather than, you know, “super rich.” Although I’m sure the author of this series, Kevin Kwan, meant both.
Even so, there’s not nearly enough crazy in “Crazy Rich Asians.” There’s not enough unique crazy. It’s same-old. The matriarchs are steely and plotting, the married men philandering. The young women are catty and go on insane shopping sprees while the young men are loutish and rent expensive boats for booze- and bikini-clad-girl-filled parties.
And a perfect couple runs through them.
Essentially our titular Asians escape the confines of racial stereotypes only to get trapped in the rom-com kind. Progress, I guess.
Steely Matriarch 3
The perfect couple is Rachel Chu (Constance Wu), an NYU economics professor, and her boyfriend Nick Young (Henry Golding), the scion of a freakishly wealthy Singapore real estate/development family. In Singapore, he’s like JFK Jr., but with a financial rather than a political legacy. Oddly, after a year of dating him in NYC, Rachel doesn’t know any of this. Did she never Google him? She finds out, bit by bit, when they travel to Singapore for his best friend’s wedding.
What else does she find out?
- Nearly every young woman in Singapore hates her—having imagined themselves as Mrs. Nick Young.
- Nick’s mom, Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh), hates her. She isn’t about to let her oldest child marry a mere economics professor.
- She didn’t bring the right clothes.
Thank god Rachel has her bestie, Peik Lin (Awkwafina), whose own family is rich—just not Young family rich—and who essentially plays the traditional rom-com black BFF: hipper, straight shooting, without a life of her own. We also get a gay confidante, Oliver (Nico Santos), who also doesn’t have a life on his own. Everyone exists to either impede or help Rachel.
I liked Wu but Rachel is that rom-com staple: the girl who’s pretty (but not threateningly so), who’s sometimes clumsy (so girls can identify), and who beats the odds with grit and determination. Really, the only thing new are the faces.
And they’re only new to Hollywood. “Crazy Rich” might be the first Hollywood movie with an all Asian-American cast since “The Joy Luck Club” in 1993 (an unforgivable stat), but it’s the third movie I’ve seen just this year involving the machinations of Chinese matriarchs. The others: “The Bold, the Corrupt and the Beautiful,” which won won the Golden Horse Award for best picture in Taiwan; and “Love Education,” which should have won the Golden Horse Award for best picture in Taiwan. “Crazy Rich” isn’t nearly in their category, but I'm curious about the matriarchal theme. Why does it keep returning given the patriarchal nature of Confucian societies? Or is that why it keeps returning? Scheming is what's left.
Is it odd that the thought of rejecting Nick never comes into play? Once the other women are aligned against Rachel, the goal simply becomes fighting back and getting him. Sure, he’s handsome, but everything he’s hidden from her leaves her floundering. There’s a kind of obtuseness to his reticence, too—as if he’s glided along in this gilded world for so long he doesn’t know how difficult it might be for others without money to keep up. Or is he simply testing her? To see if she can keep up? That wouldn’t be bad. At least it would mean something’s whirring inside him. It would mean he inherited some of his mother’s nature. But I doubt it. He just seems bland and nice. And this is the guy who’s supposed to run the family business?
Wedding Singer 2
“Crazy Rich Asians” was directed by Jon M. Chu, whose other work includes the second “G.I. Joe,” the second “Now You See Me,” the second and third “Step Up”s, and the first and only “Jem and the Holograms”—all bottom dwellers on the Rotten Tomatoes charts. This one somehow landed a 93% rating. Because it was that much better? Or because everyone is ashamed of the “Joy Luck” stat and want it changed?
A few moments aren't bad. I liked the turnabout with Ah Ma (Lisa Lu). I liked the mah-jong scene, where Rachel gets the upper hand on Eleanor even as she concedes Nick. It’s a good winning-by-losing scene. But we know it’s not going to last. Hollywood has to have her win. So, yes, Nick chases her onto the plane, and there, amid luggage and crowds, he gets down on one knee and proposes and everyone applauds. Then they throw a party next to the insane infinity pool atop the insane Marina Bay Sands hotel; and everyone, all the crazy rich, party like it's 1929.