Crazy Rich Asians is the movie of the summer.
Synopsis: The story follows New Yorker Rachel Chu as she accompanies her longtime boyfriend, Nick Young, to his best friend’s wedding in Singapore. Excited about visiting Asia for the first time but nervous about meeting Nick’s family, Rachel is unprepared to learn that Nick has neglected to mention a few key details about his life. Not only is he the scion of one of the country’s wealthiest families, but also one of its most sought-after bachelors. Being on Nick’s arm puts a target on Rachel’s back, with jealous socialites and, worse, Nick’s own disapproving mother taking aim. (Warner Bros)
Starring: Constance Wu, Henry Golding, and Michelle Yeoh
Writers: Peter Chiarelli and Adele Lim
Director: Jon M. Chu
Rating: PG (Canada)/PG-13 (USA)
Running Time: 120mins
No genre is immune to time. It’s widely accepted that the superhero genre has dominated the box office for the past decade. But, through most of the 2000’s, the romcom genre was booming with stars like Patrick Dempsey, Drew Barrymore and Hugh Grant. Since then, the genre’s popularity has dramatically faded. In 2017, there were no big romcoms released, other than The Big Sick which, arguably, plays out more seriously than someone would expect from a romantic comedy. Rewinding back to 2004, there were a ton of romcoms released: 50 First Dates, Along Came Polly, Garden State, The Terminal. The list goes on, and on, and on. When the first trailer for Crazy Rich Asians was released, there were a lot of questions to go along with it.
Does this movie really feature and all-asian cast? Yes it does. What’s more impressive is the way the representation is dealt with. For decades, minorities never received the “big roles.” They were usually supporting characters, or typecast as a certain type of character. Throughout most of the 2000’s, it was clear that the romantic comedy genre excluded minorities. Yet, Crazy Rich Asians serves up a cast full of minorities in roles that have never previously been available to them. It’s a huge step forward for representation in film, and for that reason alone, it’s worth seeing.
So this is the first true, Hollywood romcom released in a long time. Is it actually good? Absolutely, and it may represent the revitalization of a genre people assumed was long gone. Crazy Rich Asians does what When Harry Met Sally… did for the genre when it was first released in 1989: it brought an old genre into the modern era. It changed the formula, the themes and the humour of romantic comedies for years to come. Crazy Rich Asians has the potential to do that, once again, in 2018.
On so many levels, the film is standard, and reinforces the romantic comedy formula. But at the same time, it subtlety adds in details that have never previously been considered for a film like this. The clash between “American culture,” and “old fashioned culture” is something that a lot of minorities grew up experiencing. The messages of acceptance for different cultures is one that is hugely important in modern society.
On top of the thematic changes it makes, the casting is an obvious subversion of the romcom formula. In the 2000’s, the most bankable stars were people like Jennifer Aniston and Patrick Dempsey. Fast forward to 2018, the industry is completely different. There’s been a huge push for more diversity in film, and Crazy Rich Asians is absolutely the best-case scenario for this movement. It shows that this all-asian cast, which Hollywood considered for many years as “just not right for these types of roles,” can work just as well, if not better, than any 2000’s romcom ensemble. Wu is simply amazing as Rachel Chu, a game-theory professor at NYU. Golding, who stars as Nick Young, is perfect for the part. He’s charming, mild-mannered, and exactly the type of actor you’d want for your leading man. The supporting cast, which includes Awkwafina and Ken Jeong, is hilarious.
Crazy Rich Asians is not only a huge step forward for diversity in film, but it’s a great movie in and of itself. It doesn’t do anything vastly different from the romantic comedies that came before it, but it very much revitalizes a genre that many had assumed was long gone. If it weren’t for Paul Schrader’s masterful First Reformed, this would be the movie of the year. Regardless, it’ll surely surprise a lot of people. It may not be the film of the year, but it’s definitely the must-see film of the summer. With the release of Crazy Rich Asians and Set It Up, could 2018 mark the comeback of romcoms? Perhaps, and if future films are anything like either of those films, this should be an exciting new direction for the genre.