It is the age old dilemma. A cinderella-like story where a rich boy moves away from controlling parents and meets a girl from the other side of the tracks. They fall helplessly in love. The boy decides he wants to forget his high privileged life of years past and live on his own merit with his soulmate. The problem is his family will not allow this to happen and expect their son to take over the family business and forget about the “girl of his dreams” and move back home. We have seen this conflict many times before in both television and film. Now take this dilemma and put it in the setting of a high powered Asian family from Singapore with very high expectations of their only son. This is the basis of “Crazy Rich Asians” directed by Jon Chu. It stars Henry Golding as Nick Young, Constance Wu as Rachel Chu, Rapper Awkwafina (Nora Lum) as Rachels best friend Goh Peik Lin, Lisa Lu as Nick’s Grandmother Shang Su Yi, Ken Jeong of The Hangover fame as Peik’s father, and Nick’s mother Eleanor Young played by the iconic Michelle Yeoh of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon fame. The film is based on the 2013 novel of the same name by Kevin Kwan.
Rachel Chu and Nick Young have moved their relationship to the next level. They are living in New York, and both are in the midst of very successful careers. Rachel graduated from Stanford and is an Economics professor at NYU. Nick has money but when pressed on his family business he just states that his family is “comfortable.” Nick receives an invitation from his best friend Collin to be the best man in his wedding. He invites Rachel to accompany him and meet his family for the first time in his home country of Singapore. Through social media, the whole Singapore community is well aware of Nick Young and his new American girlfriend attending the “Wedding of the Century.” Problems arise when Nick’s overbearing and traditional mother meets Rachel and makes it obvious that she does not approve of her. What Nick “forgot” to tell Rachel is that he is the Heir to the richest family in Singapore, and the country’s “Most Eligible Bachelor.” Rachel is like a fish out of water. She comes from a single parent home raised by her mother who worked many jobs to afford her education. She is seen as an outsider by the Singapore community. Nick’s mother states “there is a Hokkien phrase ‘kaki lang’. It means: Our Own Kind Of People, and you are not one of them.” The whole country is cold to who they consider “Asian Americans.” Rachel is seen as a foreigner and a typical American who “only think about their own happiness.” A wrench is thrown in the works when Nick proposes to Rachel at Collin’s wedding. She feels cornered and in a no win situation. She expresses this to Nick’s mother in a dramatic confrontation “There’s no winning. You made sure of that. ‘Cause if Nick chose me, he would lose his family. And if he chose his family, he might spend the rest of his life resenting you.” Rachel will have to overcome traditional Asian beliefs, jealous family members, a local community of eligible bachelorettes, a disaster of a bachelorette party and two uncomfortable meetings with Nick’s mother and Grandmother to assert her own confident beliefs and win over a family that is not willing to accept her.
“Crazy Rich Asians” is a film about a woman of modest means attracting the interest of a handsome prince. We have seen this in many of our famous fairy tales. Not since “The Joy Luck Club” have we been exposed to the traditional Asian belief system as seen from the eyes of an Asian American. Rachel’s plight is not uncommon in any setting where there is a disapproving family brooding over the choice of a mate. A mother never thinks the mate her son chooses is good enough for him at first. This battle between a daughter-in-law and her mother-in-law has been waged since the dawn of time. This film brings both conflicts to life with the backdrop of the constant struggle between Asian Americans and their homeland ancestors. Although this film addressed many uncomfortable serious situations, I thought this film was quite funny in parts. The Rapper Awkwafina steals the show as Rachel’s best friend Peik. Her crazy antics throughout the film were hysterical. Ken Jeong also adds to the comic relief at the dinner party at his house to celebrate Rachel’s arrival to Singapore. Although the struggle between Rachel and Nick’s family is real, the end of the film shows that there is real room for growth and compromise on both sides. I thought this film was very entertaining and an overall solid watch. I would recommend this film to the adult community because of the adult situations and undertones that would not be understood by younger viewers. I expect this movie to have Oscar buzz in the future. I give it a solid 3 out of 4 stars.