“Crazy Rich Asians” Brings Powerful Representation in a Lovely Romcom

The one element featured in Jon M. Chu’s Crazy Rich Asians that has garnered the most attention is its all Asian cast. Because the last Hollywood release to feature an all Asian cast was 1993’s The Joy Luck Club, it’s understandable why this film is considered to be so special, especially to the specific group the film is representing. Taking place in Singapore and focusing on a Chinese-American woman visiting Singapore with her boyfriend for his best friend’s wedding, only to find out her boyfriend is a part of one of the richest families in the nation, the one thing that really makes the film special is how it represents Singapore and its people. Its production design is gorgeous, and its cast is stellar across the board, thanks to Chu’s staging and handling of the material, making it an endearing and delightful romantic comedy.

The film follows the romantic comedy formula to a tee, most notably focusing on familial dilemmas and cultural differences, not dissimilar to 2002’s My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Rachel Chu, played by Constance Wu, despite having Chinese heritage, is still very much an outsider, and must deal with her boyfriend Nick Young, played by Henry Golding, and his eccentric family, most notably his ice-cold mother Eleanor, played by the legendary Michelle Yeoh. It goes about what one would expect with a rather standard story, although one could argue this film feels fresh since romantic comedies have become more and more of a unicorn in today’s tentpole-hungry industry, and it definitely does feel like 15 minutes could have been cut to tighten up the pacing.

However, what really makes the film stand out from other films in the same genre is the cast. Constance Wu as Rachel Chu is just as funny and charming as she is in the ABC series¬†Fresh Off the Boat, but is also able to deliver when it comes to the film’s more dramatic moments. Henry Golding as Nick Young is suave, and has a strong sense of charisma, which is impressive for a first-time actor. The chemistry between the two is off the charts, as the two not only are believable as a couple, but manage to play off of one another in a way that feels genuine and heartfelt.

As for the supporting cast, just about everyone hits bullseyes. Awkwafina as Rachel’s friend Peik Lin delivers some of the most humorous lines, as does Ken Jeong as Peik Lin’s father, while Gemma Chan as Astrid has a solid subplot, and plays off of Rachel well. Of course the main star in the supporting cast is Michelle Yeoh as Nick’s mother Eleanor. As the film unravels, more and more is learned about Eleanor, showing why she has obtained such a cold demeanor, all the while being sympathetic and relatable. It’s a dynamite performance that is sold almost entirely thanks to Yeoh’s performance.

Another aspect that makes this film so engaging is its production design. While the film takes place in Singapore, the production design almost makes the area feel like a magical kingdom, with larger-than-life mansions, extravagant parties, and superb costume design. The highlight of the film comes in the second act, showing a wedding that is drop-dead gorgeous, as Chu and cinematographer Vanja Cernjul make the celebration heartfelt and beautiful, while shooting Nelson Coates’ sets in a way that makes the ceremony feel almost otherwordly. Even the regular streets of Singapore feel lush and full of life.

Crazy Rich Asians, as mentioned previously, is very special when it comes to representing a group that has been largely marginalized by the film industry, but what really makes it work so well is its presentation and style. Apart from portraying Asian characters without relying on negative stereotypes, the cast is fantastic, the humor is enjoyable, and the depiction of Singapore is lively, resulting in a breezy, yet enjoyable comedy that is sure to be beautiful and touching for many groups of people.