Film Review: Crazy Rich Asians (USA, 2018)

For the past couple of months, the internet has been abuzz with news of one of the latest films to join what critics have dubbed #AsianAugust, Crazy Rich Asians. And finally, after much promotion and hype, it’s finally hit Australian shores, released nationally on August 30th.

The film’s premise is simple and straight-forward. Based on the 2013 novel by Kevin Kwan, it follows Asian-American economics professor Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) as she accompanies boyfriend Nick Young (Henry Golding) to his home country of Singapore for a wedding, only to find out that he is part of one of the richest families in Asia. With the spotlight on her, Rachel must now deal with jealousy, traditions and one very disapproving mother.

The storyline of the film itself isn’t anything new. Put a hardworking female protagonist, a (very) handsome love interest, some conflict, jealous girls, and a supportive best-friend together, and you’ve got yourself your classic rom-com flick. Its nothing we haven’t seen before, but instead allows the film to place its focus upon how it chooses to play around with the story.

Let’s first talk about the big elephant in the room. An all-Asian cast upon the big screen is something that hasn’t been seen since the likes of The Joy Luck Club over 20 years ago, so to see something like this again on the big screen as a mainstream film is a truly amazing feat to be recognised. Asian references in the film were integrated in cleanly so as to compliment the film rather than distract the viewer, and as an Asian-Australian myself growing up surrounded by media with very little Asian representation, it was refreshing to finally see representation on the big screen.

Of course, I’m not going to ignore the downsides of the film. Some of the acting was a tad cringe at times, and during sections of the movie the script was written in to advertise the Asian culture, rather than continue the plot line (If Nick is taking Rachel through the Singaporean night markets and introducing food to her, he could express it in a way that isn’t so tourism-friendly). The sweeping shots of Singapore, while beautiful and tempting, did make the film feel like one big advertisement for Singapore, and while it did work and I have an absolute desire to visit there now, I just wish it wasn’t so obvious.

But merit is due where it’s due. Constance does an amazing job in playing the sassy and independent protagonist, while Awkwafina was just incredible as Rachel’s best friend Peik Lin. There were cameos abound during the film (I see you Harry Shum Jr. and Kris Aquino) that made it both enjoyable and fun to watch, and the editing, framing and setting of the film is what truly differentiated it for me.

Crazy Rich Asians has its ups and downs, but overall a light, easy film with an all-round amazing cast and crew seems perfectly fitting for the remainder of #AsianAugust. Let’s hope this movement no longer becomes just purely a monthly thing, but a real change that we see on our cinemas.

REVIEW SCORE: THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Crazy Rich Asians is currently out in cinemas across Australia, so be sure to check your local cinema for sessions!