Film Review: “Crazy Rich Asians”

Photo: Courtsey.

Rated PG-13
120 Minutes
Released August 15th

“Crazy Rich Asians” will be known as the movie that opened worldwide box office channels for the Asian market. First and foremost, however, this is simply an extraordinarily well-crafted film that tells a wonderful story peopled with a hilarious and fascinating collection of characters. The setting is Singapore, the families are Asian and the cultural background of most of the players happens to be upper class Chinese. Aside from that, the film is a universal “dramedy” about human needs, fears, hopes, despair, dreams, anger, and love.

Director Jon M. Chu coincidentally is related to the family detailed in the novel by Kevin Kwan on which the film is based. Chu has mounted this story amidst a setting as colorful and vibrant as a 1930’s Busby Berkeley musical and as upbeat as a Bollywood extravaganza. He is one detail-oriented director. Every shot is staged beautifully and shot flawlessly. For example, the grandmother’s mansion was created in Kuala Lumpur from the ruins of two former government buildings. The crew cleared jungle plants, monkey poop and bats from the structures, stenciled the floors to look like expensive tile and hired a muralist to decorate the walls. The soundtrack by composer Brian Tyler drives the emotions in each scene and includes both Eastern and Western music. Enjoy the amazing work of the production designers and the costume designer, Mary E. Vogt.

Although the cast of characters is large, you will feel that you know and identify with each one. Constance Wu – you may know her from the TV series Fresh Off the Boat, “sticks her landing” in her first major feature film lead as Rachel Chu. Henry Golding is perfectly cast as Nick Young, also playing his first lead in a major feature. The whole cast is superb. Standouts are Michelle Yeoh as Eleanor Young, Gemma Chan as Astrid Young Teo, and Lisa Lu as the grandmother, “Ah Ma.” Awkwafina and Ken Jeong had the audience rolling in laughter.

The story flows with an established rhythm from beginning to end, never losing its beat. The whole film plays like a beautifully choreographed ballet telling a moving story. It’s a classic tale, told extremely well and full of twists and surprises. Cultural prejudice is addressed head-on. It’s “Pride and Prejudice” set in modern-day Singapore. The story is bookended by games being played by the heroine, Rachel, which demand concentrated skill in psychological warfare and subtle manipulation. Those qualities seem to be playing leading roles on the world stage right now. Make this movie a must-see before your summer is over.

Kathryn Whitney Boole has spent most of her life in the entertainment industry, which has been the backdrop for remarkable adventures with extraordinary people. She is a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. [email protected]