‘God forbid we lose the ancient Chinese tradition of guilting your children…’
As with horror, and to a lesser extent action movies, rom-coms have had to adapt in order to survive. For every saccharine sweet cheese fest there is a 500 Days of Summer or The Big Sick. Critically acclaimed, adored by audiences, the whole nine yards. While this has seen the genre grow in a way that is both welcome and necessary, it also means that there has been little place for the more traditional romantic comedies to shine through. Crazy Rich Asians is an attempt to redress the balance, and it is mostly successful…
Just like the original star crossed lovers, Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) and Nick Young (Henry Golding) come from opposite sides of the tracks. Rachel is an American-born Chinese NYU professor but even that prestigious role feels insignificant when she meets Nick’s incredibly wealthy family back in Singapore. What follows is two hours of familiar rom-com tropes (disapproving mothers, quirky best friends, conflict in the second act etc etc) but delivered through a lens of wealth, identity and what it means to be a second generation immigrant. It is the latter themes that ensure that Crazy Rich Asians is at least unique, but that’s not enough to save Jon M. Chu’s film from genre trappings.
While Wu is great as the leading lady, Golding is forgettable and robotic as her supposed lover and it falls to the excellent supporting cast to bring Peter Chiarelli and Adele Lim’s smart script to life. While it’s never laugh-out-loud funny, there are enough moments that raise a smile, and enough smart one liners to keep things moving along nicely, despite the overly long running time.
For fans of the genre, Crazy Rich Asians will no doubt be yet another winner in a long line of formulaic movies that know just how to appeal to those that watch them. For the sceptics among us, Chu’s film isn’t really different enough or compelling enough to merit the praise that it has received. Watch The Big Sick instead.