CRAZY RICH ASIANS
** SPOILERS **
The reactions of Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) and her best friend Goh Peik Lin (Awkwafina) in the photo above are apt for Crazy Rich Asians. Directed by Jon M. Chu and based on the bestseller by Kevin Kwan, the first Hollywood film in 25 years starring an all-Asian cast is an exuberant, funny, insightful, and eye-popping look at how the rest of the world lives. By rest of the world, I mean the insanely wealthy Chinese who practically own all of Singapore. Addressing themes of family, identity, self-worth, and tons of romance set in the luxurious backdrop of South Asia, Crazy Rich Asians is a stunning and joyous crowd-pleaser that is dominated by lovely performances by an outstanding cast, especially all of the women in the film, and earns its multitude of fireworks popping throughout.
The plot is simple: Rachel, an NYC-based Chinese American economics professor, is invited by her handsome and dashing boyfriend Nick Young (Henry Golding) to be his date to his best friend's wedding in Singapore. Rachel would, of course, have to meet Nick's family. Nick is like the Bruce Wayne of Singapore - his every movement is tracked on social media by a cadre of female admirers - and like Mr. Wayne, Nick has been keeping a secret. He doesn't run around in a Batsuit at night, but he is fabulously wealthy. Nick is a bit suspect in his behavior throughout the film; he likes keeping things from Rachel (like his plan to propose to her), and he claims he wants nothing to do with being the Golden Child and heir to his family's vast fortune, but it's not that simple. Nick is very much devoted to his stern mother Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh) and even more so to his grandmother (Lisa Lu), the matriarch and true power behind the family. Still, for every questionable decision Nick makes, the film bends over backward to reaffirm that he's really a good man and his heart and devotion to Rachel are true.
For Rachel, the trip has highs and lows. Anyone's jaw would drop at the sprawling mansions, exotic island getaways, and limitless food and privilege she's exposed to, but all of that comes at a price: most of the crazy rich Asians Nick grew up with are, unsurprisingly, total assholes. There are some exceptions: Nick's gorgeous cousin Astrid (Gemma Chan) is elegant and kind but stuck in a bad marriage, and the couple about to wed, Colin (Chris Pang) and Araminta (Sonoya Mizono), are lovely people inside and out. Still, Rachel is subjected to hazing and treated like an outcast for being a crazy not-rich Asian who has the gall to be dating Nick Young. Luckily, Rachel has her friend Goh to take solace with. Goh may not be crazy rich, but her weird-ass family (her father is played by Ken Jeong in total Asian clown mode) is still rich enough to take Rachel on a Pretty Woman-inspired shopping spree to find a dress suitable for the wedding. And what a wedding it is; an opulent, mermaid-inspired affair that may well be the most magical nuptials ever captured on film.
The wedding isn't so great for Rachel, though. Eleanor's obvious disapproval leads her to investigate Rachel's family and reveals some buried secrets about her mother and her past. The film seems to set up a fitting breakup between Nick and Rachel, with Rachel scoring her important moral victory by getting one over on Eleanor. That should have been enough and would have been a nice, bittersweet ending, but Crazy Rich Asians isn't in the market for bittersweet. Instead, Nick rises to the occasion and makes a final romantic bid to marry Rachel. It doesn't quite jive with the way Rachel asserted herself and her self-worth in the third act, but this is a Hollywood romantic comedy and there was plenty of money left in the fireworks budget, so we are delighted to put our quibbles aside to see Rachel and Nick get their happy ending and become Crazy Rich Man and Wife. Rachel probably should have asked for a little space to think things through, but fuck it, let's all leave the theater feeling good, why not? Rachel does marry into Nick's incredible wealth, but she learns the real treasure are the Crazy Rich Asians we met along the way.