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Sunday, August 19, 2018

Crazy Rich Asians Movie Review

'Crazy Rich Asians' is a Nice Way to End the Summer

Jon M. Chu's "Crazy Rich Asians" is a refreshing palate cleanser at the end of a mediocre blockbuster season. It's lively and colorful, fun but significant; there's a little bit of everything here for everyone to enjoy.

Based on the wildly successful novel of the same name by Kevin Kwan, "Crazy Rich Asians" follows Rachel Chu (Constance Wu), a professor who is headed to Singapore with her boyfriend Nick (Henry Golding) for a wedding and to meet his family for the first time. Once they get on the plane, Rachel is surprised to see they are in a luxurious first-class suite and wonders how they can even afford this. It turns out Nick has some money - quite a bit in fact. Nick informs Rachel his family are the ones with all the money, but he has tried to distance himself from their shadow.

Once they get to Singapore, Nick tells Rachel his mother is having a party at their house with some family and friends. Rachel spends the day catching up with her college friend, Peik Lin (Awkwafina), who knows all about Nick's family's reputation and wealth and tells Rachel she must look regal for the party that night. Peik Lin drops her off and, even after learning about the family money, they are both still shocked to pull up to their palatial estate.

Now, it's time to meet the family. Rachel is understandably overwhelmed, but it doesn't help when she meets Nick's mother, Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh), a terse host who's more worried about the perfection of the party and why her son doesn't visit often enough than she is about meeting Rachel. Rachel quickly finds out that getting to know Eleanor isn't going to be an easy endeavor.

A lot happens within the two-hour span of "Crazy Rich Asians," including bachelor and bachelorette parties gone awry, a subplot about a troubled marriage, and the clash of cultures between Nick's family and Rachel's New York-raised lifestyle. There are wacky supporting players galore (including Ken Jeong as the wildly broad father to Awafina's character), which don't completely register. Luckily, a few minor distractions don't take away from the immense pleasures the movie has to offer.

Rachel and Nick don't really spend a lot of time together because "Crazy Rich Asians" isn't so much about their relationship; rather, it's Rachel's story about finding herself in unfamiliar territory. The movie is as much a romantic comedy as it is a journey of self-discovery and Chu finds the balance of telling both narratives separately and concurrently. Yeoh, as always, is terrific as the stern mother, finding simple and effective ways to bring layers to the role. Awkwafina, who didn't have much to do in "Ocean's 8," steals every scene she is in with fierce comedic effect. She earns the film's big laughs with her crazed energy, solidifying her status as the next big comedic star.

The thematic trajectory of "Crazy Rich Asians" will play like a classic fish-out-of-water tale, but every frame is infused with life and energy, featuring a cast that is pleased to bring this kind of story and representation to the screen. The movie is visually stunning, from the crisp cinematography to the lavish production design, and it moves along swiftly. "Crazy Rich Asians" is an easy-breezy way to end the summer.

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