We start our story following Rachel (Constance Wu) and Nick (Henry Golding), a couple in New York City. Nick invites Rachel to head to Singapore for a wedding, where she would meet his family for the first time and he divulges to her that his family is incredibly wealthy. What follows is a Cinderella story of Rachel trying to prove herself to Nick’s demanding mother (Michelle Yeoh).
Rachel also meets up with an old friend Peik Lin (YouTube personality Awkwafina) and her family (including Ken Jeong). We also have a subplot involving Nick’s cousin Astrid (Gemma Chan) and her husband Michael (Pierre Png), both of them trying to keep something hidden from the other. Other supporting characters include Sonoya Mizuno, Chris Pang, Nico Santos (Superstore), and Jing Lusi.
The real star of this movie is Singapore and how wonderfully this movie explores all facets of life there. As someone with zero knowledge of Singapore, I was enthralled by the landmarks and the food and the customs. It walked a fine line of becoming a tourism video but it never quite tipped the scale for me, which is great. The locations were all stunning and the movie exposes you to this culture without over-explaining anything, leaving it up to you to connect the dots.
This setting would only work if the story was compelling and luckily, it very much does work. It’s not especially unique (woman tries to win over abrasive mother is a common theme in romantic comedies) but it does it really well. There are a few big twists and turns but generally it’s a tad predictable.
Our characters really carry the film. Constance Wu (Fresh Off the Boat) is charming and likeable as Rachel and her fight to win over Nick’s mother seems earnest, so you’re definitely rooting for her the whole time. It’s not so simple though, as Michelle Yeoh delivers an incredible performance as the mother, simply wanting what’s best for her son, so you can manage to understand both sides of the coin here.
The other dramatic standout of the movie is Gemma Chan as the cousin Astrid, who I often found more compelling than the lead characters. In terms of comedic standout, it has to be Awkwafina, who I usually find a little too over the top for my liking, but here delivered the perfect amount of wit to balance with the soap opera-ish drama.
In the end, I have some great things to say but it took awhile in the movie for those feelings to develop. I found the beginning of the movie to be really clunky and uninteresting. It felt as if this movie was shot in order, as Constance Wu and Henry Golding both felt unsure and uncomfortable in the opening scenes. It wasn’t until they were actually in Singapore and we start to get some vibrant scenery and some laugh out loud jokes that I finally warmed up to this movie.
I also mentioned above, this movie is predictable if you’ve ever seen a romantic comedy like this before. From the opening moments, you could likely guess the major beats of the film.
Crazy Rich Asians manages to take a familiar storyline and somehow make it interesting, by wrapping that story in culture and personality that is not often seen in Hollywood. Singapore is a character itself here, though the actors and actresses shine as well. It’s a fun, vibrant story but has plenty of heart, resulting in a great time at the movies that will please most fans of the romantic comedy genre.