Crazy Rich Asians
When Nick Young (BBC travel series host Henry Golding) suggests to his girlfriend, NYU Economics Professor Rachel Chu (Constance Wu, TV's 'Fresh Off the Boat') that they try traveling East, she thinks he means the Upper East Side. Nick explains he wants to take her to meet his family in Singapore where he is to be the Best Man at his friend Colin Khoo's (Chris Pang, Netflix's 'Marco Polo') wedding. Rachel's a little nervous at the prospect, but as it will give her a chance to visit old college roomie Peik Lin Goh (Awkwafina, "Ocean's 8"), she agrees, never realizing she's about to be cast into the midst of "Crazy Rich Asians."
Laura's Review: B
A Cinderella story featuring the first all Asian cast since "The Joy Luck Club," this adaptation of producer Kevin Kwan's international bestseller (by "Now You See Me 2's" Peter Chiarelli and television writer Adele Lim) seems destined to make almost as much money as drips off its screens. A chick flick in the best sense of the phrase, "Crazy Rich Asians" isn't perfect, but its central romance is worth rooting for and Awkwafina is so entertaining in a supporting role she should seriously be considered during awards season. After a London set prologue twenty years in the past that establishes both the enormous wealth and reach of the Young family and its matriarch Eleanor's (Michelle Yeoh) quiet steel, director Jon M. Chu ("Now You See Me 2") clues us in as to what Rachel will be up against when an Instagram influencer grabs a shot of she and Nick in a NYC ice cream parlor. It goes viral in seconds, a who's who of Asian society speculating on her identity all the way to Eleanor's Bible study group in Singapore. Within a minute, Nick's getting a phone call from his mother firing her first warning shot - that there's 'no room' for Rachel at the family home. Blissfully unaware, Rachel notes her suitability as 'so Chinese that I'm an economics professor with lactose intolerance.' Rachel gets her first shock at the airport where she learns she's not only flying first class, but in a private suite. Nick explains away the luxury as a business perk due to family connections. Only beginning to catch on, she delights in complimentary pajamas that are better than anything she owns (it is this couple's joy in the everyday that cuts the queasy-making of all the film's 'richness'). Nick gives us a preview of the family cousins - Hollywood hopeful Alistair (Remy Hii) dating tawdry actress Kitty Pong (Fiona Xie), his brother, family and businessman Edison Cheng ('The Daily Show's' Ronny Chieng), who treats his wife Fiona like an accessory, and his favorite, the only one Rachel has met, drop dead gorgeous, rich as Croesus yet down to earth Astrid Leong (Gemma Chan, BBCA's 'Humans'). Cousin-in-name-only Bernard Tai (Jimmy O. Yang, HBO's 'Silicon Valley'), who will be organizing the bachelor party, is clearly not one of Nick's favorites. Met in Singapore by Colin and his fiancee Araminta Lee (Sonoya Mizuno, "Annihilation"), Rachel's first evening is a warm embrace and indulgence of spectacular street food. The next day, she's astounded by the Gohs' nouveau riche palace (inspired by 'Versailles' Hall of Mirrors and Donald Trump's bathroom'), but astounds them more when Peik Lin learns that Nick is Nick *Young*, royalty in everything but actual title. With Peik Lin as advisor (and party crasher), Rachel begins to navigate hostile territory, her only apparent new ally Nick's revered Ah Ma (Lisa Lu, "The Joy Luck Club"). Chu keeps strong reins on every aspect of this massive production, especially impressing with his even handling of a cast ranging from film legends (Yeoh, Lu) to television commentators (Golding, Chieng). Locations include Singapore's Marina Bay Sands, the hotel and casino topped with a Skypark and infinity pool; Gardens by the Bay nature park; Langkawi Island off the Malay coast for Amarinta's hen party; two mansions in Kuala Lumpur's Perdana Botanical Gardens that housed Singapore's British Governor as the Young estate; Singapore's CHIJMES complex for Colin's wedding and a supertanker outfitted with a basketball court, an arcade, a Rolls Royce DJ booth and global beauty queens for Colin's bachelor party. Even the plantings are impressive, from the bamboo fans, orchids and tall grasses accessorizing Amarinta's underwater wedding aisle to the Tan Hua plant which blooms rarely, its flowers only lasting through one evening. Costuming features one haute couture designer after another, from the elegant Christian Dior Astrid first appears in to Rachel's Marchesa wedding finery to the Stella McCartney pajamas the flamboyant Peik Lin dons as daywear. Constance Wu sheds her TV mom persona, effortlessly sliding into Rachel's shoes with a mixture of American pluck and Asian tradition, graciousness simmering into anger before settling in to resignation. She holds her own with Yeoh, their climactic showdown in a mah-jongg parlor an unexpected romcom twist. Golding proves a triumph of casting, a handsome prince for modern times. Other notables include Kheng Hua Tan (Netflix's 'Marco Polo') as Rachel's single, hard-working mom, Nico Santos as gay cousin Oliver and Ken Jeong and Chieng Mun Koh as Peik Lin's over-the-top parents. Awkwafina walks off with the film in every scene she's in. But it is this huge, sprawling ensemble that is also the film's flaw, the adaptation uneven in unfurling so many stories. Nick's former flame Amanda Ling (Jing Lusi) is catty until she isn't. Astrid's unraveling marriage to Michael Teo (Pierre Png) is handled too abruptly. Princess Intan (Kris Aquino) is introduced as a feather for Rachel's cap then floats off. Lu's Ah Ma's change of heart is whiplash inducing. The film's conclusion doesn't address the biggest obstacle to its romantic pairing, either, perhaps intentionally setting the stage for the inevitable sequel. Still, it's a rarity that a big, splashy commercial romance gets so much right, taking well worn paths in new directions. "Crazy Rich Asians" is crazy like a fox. Grade: