I cannot think of any Hollywood rom-com movie that carries this much pressure. It’s the first Hollywood movie with an almost all-Asian cast in 25 years (the last movie was The Joy Luck Club in 1993). Although there are a lot of side-eyes, the expectations are high that the movie will suit the general public and not only for Asians and Asian-American movie goers.
Well, all that pressure has turned this film into a gem. Directed by Jon M. Chu, Crazy Rich Asians is fun, funny, jaw-dropping and swoon-worthy. Chu, who also directed G. I. Joe: Retaliation, Now You See Me 2 and Step Up 2: The Streets, is no rookie in making brilliant movies. He excellently showcased Crazy Rich Asians with outrageous amount of wealth and lavish life of legit rich Asians. The movie is not just eye-popping but also a feast for the ears with tracks that showcases the diversity of cultures that the film celebrates. (That Chinese version of Coldplay’s Yellow is thrilling!)
Aside from the glamorous locations, witty jokes, and its story with a lot of heart, what makes this film stand out is its terrific cast. The entertaining adaptation of the 2013 literary sensation by Kevin Kwan is as much a win for Hollywood representation as Marvel’s “Black Panther” was for African-American audiences early this year. Director Chu, on one of his interviews, said that he once told that he “cannot find an all-Asian cast” for the role in this movie, showing that the industry is badly in need of an eye opener. See what we have now: a movie successfully proving to Hollywood that both Asian-centered stories and romantic comedies deserve much more attention.
Crazy Rich Asians tells a story of a Chinese-American woman seeking everlasting love and discovering cultural identity. Rachel Chu (Constance Wu), a Chinese-American professor, decides to spend spring break with her boyfriend Nick Young (Henry Golding), who’s going home to Singapore and she finds out that he is crazy rich. Beneath its glitz and glamour, the movie is saturated with a modern sense of money, the craziness and fun of family, and personal reinvention.
The two leads, Wu and Golding, are charming and explicitly talented, and the supporting performers around them keep the story crazier. Michelle Yeoh, as Eleanor, is suitably regal, and indeed, a force to be reckoned with. It wouldn’t be a proper rom-com without the magic of #bestfriendgoals brought by co-stars Nico Santos (another Filipino pride), and Awkwafina (who is making a grandiose year after her recent casting on Ocean’s 8). There are lot of wonderful scenes in this movie: the wedding, dumpling-making, and a key scene that unfolds over a game of Mahjong to name few.
Scene stealing is no easy feat in a movie like this and Kris Aquino does just that. Literally, I held my breath for a minute when Kris came into the scene in her yellow Michael Cinco gown. That few-minute cameo is indeed worth the wait and seems to be the highlight of the movie for us, Filipinos. It is short but a showstopper. Well, it is not every day you will see a Filipino cast in a Hollywood movie, more over it is THE Queen of All Media who is playing the role of the untouchable Malay Princess Intan.
Seeing this kind of on-screen representation, loaded with Asian diversity, is incredibly satisfying. In a deeper way, Crazy Rich Asians is truly groundbreaking. As a number of critics have written, just seeing an all-Asian cast in multifaceted roles is a game changer: brings unheard voices before a huge audience and breaking walls of racial expectations.
No surprise if this is out for a sequel. SHIOK!
Movie Review by Emilson Gole Cruz