Guest reviewer, here yet again! I don’t have the film knowledge of Brooke, so I had to read the fact that Crazy Rich Asians features the first mostly Asian cast in an American film since The Joy Luck Club — but I shall pass that fact along here. Armed even with my sparse knowledge of Asian-American film casts and my even sparser knowledge of Singapore culture, I still hugely enjoyed this romantic comedy with more gravitas than I was expecting.
The story is straight fairy tale. Rachel Chu is a native New Yorker who grew up with a single mom, speaks fluent Cantonese, and is an economics professor at NYU at a young age. I don’t recall if her exact age is specified, but her hunky boyfriend is only a year out of college, and it’s implied that they’re roughly the same age. Said hunky boyfriend, Nick Young, is secretly not only megarich and megafamous in Singapore, he’s a direct descendent of the people who colonized Singapore and first in line when the family matriarch dies to inherit the family fortune and head up the family businesses. Nick’s a devastatingly handsome version of Prince William mixed with Zayne from One Direction, plus Logan Huntsberger from Gilmore Girls. Also: abs.
I say “secretly” because Rachel has no clue that Nick is rich, never mind crazy rich, until they’re literally on the plane to Singapore. She has no clue that he’s essentially royalty until she has lunch the afternoon before meeting the whole damn clan with a college friend’s family (Awkwafina and Ken Jeong, amongst others, are here for broad comedy that’s incredibly sharp). Thankfully, they clue her in, at long last, to her boyfriend’s Prince Charming-like life.
That secret is one thing I didn’t care for, but for the most part, the rest of the cast and story worked for me brilliantly. Constance Wu and Henry Golding were adorable as our fairytale prince and princess. Gemma Chan (who is possibly the most stunning woman I’ve ever seen) is fantastic as a perfectly poised beauty who’s life isn’t quite as charmed as it seems. And the aforementioned Awkwafina and Ken Jeong bring comedy relief along with Nico Santos as Oliver, the “rainbow sheep” of the family who’s also the family fixer. That auntie over there wants a new girlfriend for her son? He’s on it.
Speaking of aunties, there was an entire world I’d never seen in this film’s depiction of Singapore’s 1%. The scope and scale of their wealth is on a whole other level, and the rules are strict. Old money only. No Americans allowed. Only the most traditional upbringing with no family secrets will be allowed entry. Rachel, of course, can’t live up, and that’s where the conflict comes in. But aside from the good old-fashioned “you’re not good enough for my son” drama, the candy-coated, monied lifestyle seems ideal. Let’s just say it’s a world where you get your own suite on a plane (if not the whole plane), they spend $40 million on your wedding, and your grandmother’s foyer of the family mansion / estate (what’s the cutoff for “estate” vs “mansion”?) is basically its own zip code in Singapore.
From the title, and indeed, most of the trailers, I was expecting some variation of silly rich people doing silly things. But there’s a ton of heart here about what it means to be a family, any family.