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edge staff writer


‘Crazy Rich Asians’ is crazy good

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Brilliant comedy easily surpasses high expectations

Representation in Hollywood has always been a tricky thing. There are a LOT of people in this country who don’t often get to see people who look like them on the big screen outside of certain broad characterizations. So when a film comes along that gives an underrepresented population its due in an honest and genuine manner, it’s a big deal.

In that sense, a movie like “Crazy Rich Asians” – directed by Jon M. Chu from a screenplay adapted by Peter Chiarelli and Adele Lim from Kevin Kwan’s 2013 novel of the same name - wins simply by existing. But for a true victory, such a movie needs to show just how compelling and engaging and hilarious that kind of story can be.

And man oh man – does “Crazy Rich Asians” deliver. It is heartwarming and funny and emotionally charged and steeped in truth. It’s a movie that might get you in the door with its qualifiers, but doesn’t need them at all once you’re in your seat. Sumptuously filmed and brilliantly performed, it’s one of the best comedies – hell, one of the best MOVIES – I’ve seen this year.

Rachel Chu (Constance Wu, TV’s “Fresh of the Boat”) is a brilliant, accomplished woman – an economics professor who is the youngest tenured faculty member at NYU. She and her boyfriend Nick Young (Henry Golding in his feature debut) are happy and very much in love. But when Nick invites Rachel to come with him to his home in Singapore for the marriage of his best friend, she soon discovers that there’s something about Nick she never knew.

His family is rich. Like, CRAZY rich.

From the moment she lands, she is swept up into a world of uber-wealth unlike anything she could have ever comprehended. There are plenty of good moments. She has a great relationship with Nick’s sister Astrid (Gemma Chan, “Transformers: The Last Knight”). The soon-to-be-married Colin (Chris Pang, TV’s “Marco Polo”) and Araminta (Sonoya Mizuno, “Annihilation”) are very nice to her. And her college roommate Peik Lin Goh (Awkwafina, “Ocean’s Eight”) is as happy and weird as ever (as is her family – especially her father (Ken Jeong, TV’s “Dr. Ken”).

But there are others who make it clear that she doesn’t belong. Chief among them is Nick’s mother Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh, TV’s “Star Trek: Discovery”), who doesn’t believe that Rachel is nearly good enough for her son or her family. And Eleanor is far from alone – many of the assorted relatives and hangers on make every effort to show Rachel that she isn’t welcome to be part of this world. Aside from the aforementioned folks and a few other allies – cousin Oliver (Nico Santos, TV’s “Superstore”) foremost among them – she’s basically left on an island.

Rachel knows that Nick loves her and that she loves Nick, but with so many powerful people issuing so many harsh rebukes and unreasonable demands, it’s unclear if love will be enough. When billions of dollars are on the table and a pride born of centuries is on the line, there are those who will stop at nothing to get what they want. And what they want is Rachel out of the picture.

“Crazy Rich Asians” is, at its heart, a romantic comedy. A really good one. It takes advantage of that standard rom-com trope of meeting the family and supercharges it, packing it with multiple levels of culture clash in a way that elevates the entire thing. It is about relationships and tradition and the notion of how different types of love can impact our lives in different ways.

It's also REALLY funny. Situational comedy and bone-dry verbal jousting jostle for their place at the table. Cutting remarks delivered with smiles. Over-the-top excess treated with blasé indifference. Pins stuck in overinflated self-images. All of it delivered against the vibrant backdrop of Singapore brought to stunning life, capturing the magnificent largesse of both the city and these people who are living within it.

Anyone who has watched “Fresh Off the Boat” already knows that Constance Wu is one of the best actors on television, but she takes it to a whole new level here. Her Rachel is smart and charming while also allowing herself to be vulnerable. She’s a magnetic presence onscreen, one of those performers who elevates those around her. Golding is a BBC TV presenter; this is his first feature, though you wouldn’t know it from his easy performance. Yeoh is a magnificent actor who brings the proper imperiousness to matriarch Eleanor. Awkwafina is an utter delight throughout, bringing a madcap comic energy that, while seemingly from an altogether different film, works wonderfully. Chan is lovely. Jeong and Santos are hilarious. In truth, the cast is pretty much outstanding across the board.

Much of the initial attention paid to “Crazy Rich Asians” has sprung from its Asian-driven story and cast. And that’s fine. It’s a wonderful thing that’s happening in terms of representation. But let’s be clear – this is an exceptional moviegoing experience no matter who you are. Love and family and the problems that they can cause are themes that are universal. Just because the faces might not be familiar doesn’t mean you won’t see yourself up there on the screen.

[5 out of 5]

Last modified on Thursday, 23 August 2018 13:38


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