This movie was fabulous. The script, the cast, the music… it all came together perfectly to create a fresh romantic comedy that doesn’t shy away from tension and drama. There is no real ‘meet cute,’ as the movie begins a year into Nick (Henry Golding) and Rachel’s (Constance Wu) relationship. Thankfully the chemistry between these two is so palpable that a meet-cute wasn’t necessary.
We already believe they’re in love, and we see the tenderness with which Nick cares for Rachel. This was extremely important to convey; otherwise, we spend the rest of the movie not really caring if Rachel wins over Nick’s mother, Eleanor (a brilliantly cold Michelle Yeoh). We must want to see these two people make it to the film’s end together, or everything else falls apart.
How easy it would have been for Eleanor to be so wholly unlikeable as she tries to push Rachel out of Nick’s life, but somehow Michelle Yeoh can convey Eleanor’s love for her children. She truly wants what is best for Nick, even if her biases and prejudices blind her to the fact that the best for Nick is indeed, Rachel. Had any other actress portrayed Eleanor, I feel like the character would have been the Bad Guy from top to bottom, one we would hope to see miserable and rejected before the credits began to roll. But there is a sympathetic nature to Eleanor, which to me was as important to the story as Nick and Rachel’s relationship.
Of course, amid the family drama is the comedic relief, namely Rachel’s friend Peik (a hilarious Awkwafina with quite the unique haircut) and her father, Wye Mun Goh (Ken Jeong, who makes an amusingly savage tongue-in-cheek impression of Hollywood’s stereotypical Asian). And what is a rom-com without a fun dressing room montage (set to an Asian cover of Material Girl) or a conclusion set at the airport? Some movies offer these tropes to some intense eye-rolling, but they’re fun and romantic in Crazy Rich Asians, just like the rest of the film. Have I gushed enough yet?
How refreshing to see an all-Asian cast represented so vividly. Admittedly some of the lesser parts (namely the socialites) are a bit one-dimensional, typical ‘mean girls/guys’, but the leads and significant secondary characters are given a chance to shine truly, and they do. Gemma Chan is a standout as Astrid, a woman dealing with her husband’s infidelity. She delivers the best line in the movie to her philandering husband, not with ferocity or anger, but with such clarity and matter-of-factness that it’s as effective as a swift punch to the gut (which he more than deserved). I believe the next trilogy movie centers around her character, which thrills me, and I cannot wait to see it.