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Movie review: Crazy Rich Asians

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Posted on September 2, 2018 |
By Joan Ellis



pic for Crazy Rich Asians movie review.jpg
Michelle Yeoh, left, plays the mother opposite actor Henry Golding (the son) and Constance Wu (his girlfriend) in “Crazy Rich Asians.” 2018

Crazy Rich Asians— Running Time: 2:00 — Rating: PG-13

Crazy Rich Asians is a movie that could have gone wrong for all kinds of reasons and instead does everything right. It is cleverly designed to give audiences a taste of the cultures of both America and Singapore and it is delivered by terrific actors who understand perfectly what their all-Asian cast is trying to do. Don’t miss this one.

We first meet Rachel (Constance Wu), an Asian economics professor in New York City. She is deeply in love with Nick (Henry Golding), a handsome Asian from Singapore on a temporary stay in New York. Without telling her much about his background, this nice guy takes his new love to visit his family in Singapore. The couple is dropped into the ultra-luxurious chaos of that city — a challenge for them and a heap of fun for the audience. As the film shifts between showing us the culture and the couple, we sink in with alternating laughter and concern.

Nick, we learn, is expected to take over the family company in the town where his entire family lives in unimaginable luxury. Director Jon M. Chu takes us on a comical romp through the cultural excess balanced by the serious demands by both his family and the city for Nick’s permanent return. 

Those are the bones, and they are carried by a terrific cast. There isn’t one thing not to love about the performances of Constance Wu and Henry Golding. We root for them all the way. A third outstanding — though decidedly not lovable — performance comes from Michelle Yeoh as Nick’s mother. From beginning to end she turns her coldest self to her son’s beautiful girlfriend who she sees as “the American threat.” Hers is as quietly powerful a performance of dignified cruelty as we are likely to see in a very long time. To Rachel she says, “You will never be enough.”

We are given a wonderful look at the extraordinary architecture of Singapore along with the culture of an unfathomably rich gang of citizens who make the wealthiest part of New York City look like a slum. Despite all the excess that surrounds them, it’s just plain fun to watch this couple we already like so much as they move through the opulence while facing up to the cruelty of Nick’s mother. When the general resentment of Rachel begins to look both permanent and mean, our attention turns from the comically ludicrous luxury to the reality of a good love story.

Where did the magic come from? An earned salute to director Jon M. Chu, who directs a fun, nutty story as his fine actors plow gracefully through the jokes, the customs, the music and the opulence. This is the kind of zany fun we rarely have during a night at the movies. Welcome to the Asian film industry. Without suggesting whether you will cry in sadness or delight as the end approaches, there were tears in that theater as the lights went up. 

— Reviewed by Joan Ellis

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