Friday, August 17, 2018

Tonight's Movie: Crazy Rich Asians (2018)

It's been a good couple weeks for movies on the big screen, and today I saw the most delightful new film of all, CRAZY RICH ASIANS (2018).

When I first saw the trailer I thought the film had possibilities, though I confess I was a bit surprised by the title. The positive buzz continued as this week's release date grew closer so I went to see it at the earliest opportunity.

I'm happy to report that CRAZY RICH ASIANS is a delightful romantic comedy which I enjoyed as much as any movie I've seen this year. While some have called it a modern CINDERELLA story, I'd say a more accurate description is that it's the big-screen equivalent of a Hallmark royalty romance -- that's a positive description for me -- with stunning production values.

Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) is a young economics professor who's been dating Nick Young (Henry Golding) without realizing he's the scion of the most fabulously wealthy family in Singapore. (Don't the smart women in these kinds of stories ever use Google?)

Rachel's first hint that there's something unusual about Nick and his family is when they fly to Singapore for the wedding of Nick's best friend Colin (Chris Pang) to Araminta (Sonoya Mizuno); they're ushered into an ultra-luxe first class airline cabin and Rachel is baffled by the "mistake," as they clearly can't afford it...but it turns out Nick can. Oh, can he ever.

Shortly after arriving in Singapore Rachel is reunited with her college friend Peik Lin Goh (Awkwafina of this summer's OCEAN'S EIGHT), who loses no time filling Rachel in on exactly who Nick is and what she's getting into.

Colin and Araminta welcome Rachel with open arms, as do Nick's cousins Astrid (Gemma Chan) and Oliver (Nico Santos), but then there's Nick's formidable, queen-like mother Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh of CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON), who's convinced that Rachel is too American and too individualistic to marry Nick and join the family.

There are so many things to like about this film, starting with the very attractive and appealing cast. The handsome Golding was compared by one reviewer to Tyrone Power; I certainly wouldn't go that far, given that Power is my all-time favorite actor, but Golding really is quite charming in this.

Wu, who's a riot as the "tiger mother" in the few episodes I've seen of the sitcom FRESH OFF THE BOAT, is completely different here as the sweet and unassuming Rachel. Initially devastated by Eleanor's rejection, Rachel straightens her spine and utilizes her knowledge of "game theory" to go on the offensive against Eleanor, playing to win.

Yeoh can do no wrong, and she keeps the steely Eleanor from being a caricature. I also particularly liked Chan as fashion goddess Astrid, who is awkwardly married to a man (Pierre Png) who doesn't come from a wealthy background, resulting in her attempting to salve his ego by hiding her purchases. Watching Astrid's staff scatter her latest haul to various hiding spots around her home is initially baffling, then simultaneously funny and sad.

The film's entire presentation is first class, including a colorful credits sequence, stunning views of Singapore locations filmed by Vanja Cernjul, and a bouncy musical soundtrack.

I loved the staging of moments such as "the text heard 'round the world" early in the film, a sequence in which Nick and Rachel are spotted in a restaurant, a woman texts a picture to a friend, and soon the news is ping-ponging from country to country. Within about five minutes Nick's mother is interrupting her Bible study group to phone Nick and inquire about his date and his plans to come home for the wedding. (Of course, this does beg the question, have Nick and Rachel not been seen in public before this?)

The movie is a nonstop piece of eye candy and also a foodie's delight, especially the sequence where Colin and Araminta take out Nick and Rachel when they arrive in Singapore. Don't go see it while hungry.

I had such a good time at this one! I smiled a lot, and I also teared up a couple of times. I'll definitely be purchasing it when it's available on Blu-ray/DVD, and I'm sure I'll watch it again regularly. It's a real "feel good" movie, and I wish there were more films like this released on a regular basis.

CRAZY RICH ASIANS was directed by Jon M. Chu. It runs 121 minutes.

Parental Advisory: This film is rated PG-13 for some brief suggestive content and language. I found it closer to a PG film than PG-13. It's a good-natured film with an admirable heroine.

Update: For those who have seen the film, here's a fascinating analysis of what's happening in the climactic mahjong scene with Rachel and Eleanor.

Also, it's unobtrusively linked above so want to mention to be sure to also check out this piece on the film's locations.


Blogger Hamlette (Rachel) said...

Your review is the first thing that has made me consider going to see this! Lots of my blogging friends have been ga-ga over it, but they've failed to make it sound... cute. And fun. Who knows, I may end up seeing it now!

6:20 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Do let me know if you see it and what you think! I hope you'll find it as much fun as I did.

Best wishes,

4:15 PM  

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