Constance Wu Michelle Yeoh Ken Jeong Henry Golding
Gemma Chan Harry Shum, Jr. Awkwafina Sonoya Mizuno
The story begins in New York in 1995, showing the Young family arriving at a hotel, expecting their reservation for a suite to be honored, but the dismissive clerk and his supervisor unsympathetically turn them away, until they are informed exactly who the Young family is: the wealthiest family in Singapore who has bought the hotel! This sets the stage for a depiction of friction and animosity among social classes, probably in all countries.
Cut to New York in 2018, when one of the children in tow that trying night is now grown up. Nick Young (Golding), who has become a professor at NUY, is courting a fellow professor of Chinese descent, Rachel Chu (Wu), and inviting her to go to Singapore with him when he is best man at his friend’s wedding. And, by the way, she can meet his family. Now, he is so overjoyed about not being “recognized” by Rachel (he has hated the “fame” his family enjoys, so has decided not to clue her in on his family’s cushy situation).
Rachel gets a brief introduction to his background when they are given first class seats on the plane over, and he has to explain that the family business gets complimentary treatment. She puzzles about this, but brushes it out of her mind. She is in for a big surprise.
As she is introduced to more and more relatives and arrives at stunning mansions, its overwhelming, but she soldiers on, partly with the help of her old college friend, Goh Paik Lin (hilariously played by Awkwafina), whom she finds lives in her own mansion, although not of the grandeur of the Youngs’. Lin helps her dress more appropriately and provides moral support throughout Rachel’s stay.
What we’re treated to next is the lavish lifestyle of rich Singaporeans, with abundance and excess everywhere. It’s ironic that some of the natives are dismissive of Americans’ materialism, when what we see in many of the characters is even more exaggerated. Imagine a “rare Cambodian bong” to call people to dinner, emerald earrings costing over a million dollars, groom’s and bride’s parties at exotic islands, and a wedding that cost $40 million (scandalous, when no one should spend over $20 million!).
Well, to most of us, it will be an enjoyable fantasy to “live” for a while in this setting. But, indeed, all is not happy in fantasyland. Some must deal with marital infidelity, Rachel will encounter livid jealousy (expressed in an atrocious gift on her pillow), her boyfriend’s mother will be piercingly cruel, and she will be forced to reconsider what she is getting herself into.
Crazy Rich Asians, directed by Jon M. Chu, succeeds in what it set out to do—entertain and, perhaps, enlighten us on the issues encountered by people of mixed heritage and class, which is especially graphically presented when Rachel herself is given information about her past that she never knew about. The actors capture their roles perfectly, the music by Brian Tyler lyrically supports the action, and there are enough soulful moments to elevate the film above simple entertainment.
A crowd pleaser that just may be eligible for the Academy Awards’ new category, “Best Popular Movie.”