CRAZY RICH ASIANS

Just be clear: it’s ‘crazy rich’ as in ‘very rich’. They’re not in­sane.

Empire (UK) - - CONTENTS - Olly Richards

DI­REC­TOR Jon M. Chu CAST Con­stance Wu, Henry Gold­ing, Michelle Yeoh, Gemma Chan, Awk­wa­fina

PLOT When Nick (Gold­ing) in­vites his girl­friend Rachel (Wu) to a wed­ding in Sin­ga­pore, she sees it as a chance to meet his fam­ily and find out where he came from. On ar­rival, Rachel learns Nick has been keep­ing a lit­tle se­cret: they’re the rich­est peo­ple in the coun­try.

YOU CAN­NOT FOR a sec­ond ac­cuse Crazy Rich Asians of fail­ing to de­liver on its ti­tle. Al­most ev­ery one of its char­ac­ters has a fat bank ac­count and is not afraid to show it, as gaudily and fab­u­lously as they pos­si­bly can. That ti­tle, larky and campy as it is, is some­thing else, too. It’s a state­ment. The past five years or so have seen stu­dios fi­nally pulling their finger out when it comes to putting money be­hind movies with casts that are pre­dom­i­nantly non-white and there has been a lot of fo­cus on the suc­cess of movies with largely black casts — Black Pan­ther, Girls Trip, Straight Outta Comp­ton, etc. Crazy Rich Asians is a state­ment that di­ver­sity means a whole range of eth­nic­i­ties and ex­pe­ri­ences, and ev­ery­one should be in­cluded. It clearly knows it’s im­por­tant, as the first ma­jor stu­dio movie of the cen­tury with an Asian cast, but it wears that im­por­tance lightly, and fes­tooned in se­quins. It is a hoot, sub­tly very clever, and one of the best ro­man­tic-come­dies of the decade.

At the cen­tre of an enor­mous cast are Con­stance Wu and Henry Gold­ing as Rachel and Nick, a young, at­trac­tive cou­ple liv­ing in New York, where both work as pro­fes­sors at NYU. Things are get­ting se­ri­ous and when Nick is due to go to Sin­ga­pore, where his best friend is get­ting mar­ried, he asks Rachel to come along. Rachel knows most of Nick’s fam­ily is in Sin­ga­pore. What she does not re­alise, un­til they ar­rive, is that Nick’s fam­ily owns most of Sin­ga­pore. He is the heir to the fortune of a real es­tate dy­nasty and some­thing of a na­tional celebrity. As Rachel is in­tro­duced to his enor­mous ex­tended fam­ily she learns that many peo­ple don’t want to let the coun­try’s most el­i­gi­ble bach­e­lor go to some in­ter­loper Amer­i­can. Un­for­tu­nately, that group in­cludes Nick’s mother, Eleanor (Yeoh).

Di­rec­tor John M. Chu’s CV is an er­ratic list, tak­ing in two Step Up movies, two Justin Bieber con­cert films, the G.I. Joe se­quel and Now You See Me 2. What all those movies have in com­mon is a good amount of daz­zle, and he brings that here. Whether it’s a wed­ding of such lu­di­crous grandios­ity that the aisle is turned into a bab­bling brook be­fore the bride makes her (con­fus­ingly damp) en­trance, or a fam­ily party that re­sem­bles a royal gala, he rev­els in the opu­lence of

★★★★ OUT 14 SEPTEM­BER CERT 12A / 121 MINS

his char­ac­ters’ rar­efied lives. And while the past works of cin­e­matog­ra­pher Vanja Cern­jul don’t show any­thing com­pa­ra­bly glossy, he does the movie proud. You never sus­pect these Asians are merely moder­ately well off.

What Chu also shows, bet­ter than he ever has be­fore, is con­trol of char­ac­ter. Ini­tially the film is jolly and sweet, with jokes that raise a smile if not an out-loud laugh, but it gets more charm­ing and fun­nier as the char­ac­ters bed in and their real in­se­cu­ri­ties be­neath their ex­pen­sive sur­face start to show through. Rachel, su­perbly played by Wu, comes through par­tic­u­larly strongly, a woman who is out of her el­e­ment but quick to adapt. It man­ages to make her dis­may about dat­ing a se­cret bil­lion­aire gen­uinely sym­pa­thetic.

It’s com­mon in films with so many play­ers for things to be­come jum­bled, for char­ac­ters to feel in­cluded to just add an­other ‘name’ to the cast, but Chu knits them all to­gether flu­ently. The sup­port­ing cast is full of great turns, par­tic­u­larly Gemma Chan as a mil­lion­aire with an in­se­cure hus­band, and Michelle Yeoh. Leav­ing them all for dust, though, is Awk­wa­fina, as Rachel’s best friend Goh Peik Lin, who looks like an il­lus­tra­tion of the Dolly Par­ton quote, “It takes a lot of money to look this cheap.” De­spite be­ing in her twen­ties, she has the qual­i­ties of some­one like Joan Rivers bodyswapped with a trust-funded mil­len­nial.

Amid all the laugh­ter, Peter Chiarelli and Adele Lim’s adap­ta­tion of Kevin Kwan’s 2013 novel works in some in­ter­est­ing con­ver­sa­tions about the changes in Asian cul­ture as it has trav­elled around the world. The film is fan­tas­ti­cal, but it has a lot of re­al­world points to make and feels like a dis­cus­sion that’s only just get­ting started. A se­quel is al­ready in the works, and it can’t come soon enough.

Ver­dict it’s way over the top in its style, which is a good thing, but grounded with re­al­is­tic, love­able char­ac­ters. this is a rom­com mile­stone and the best thing to hap­pen to the genre in years. it’s crazy good.

Clock­wise from left: Rachel (Con­stance Wu) meets Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh) with Nick (Henry Gold­ing); A head-turn­ing Awk­wa­fina; Crazy rich Asians Colin (Chris Pang), Nick, Bernard (Jimmy O. Yang), Ed­die (Ronny Chieng) and Alis­tair (Remy Hii); Free bar!; Just a light din­ner for the best friends.

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