An American-born Chinese economics professor accompanies her boyfriend to Singapore for his best friend's wedding, only to get thrust into the lives of Asia's rich and famous.
ActorsStarring: Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, Gemma Chan, Lisa Lu, Awkwafina, Harry Shum Jr., Ken Jeong, Sonoya Mizuno, Chris Pang, Jimmy O. Yang, Ronny Chieng, Remy Hii, Nico Santos, Jing Lusi, Carmen Soo, Constance Lau, Pierre Png, Fiona Xie, Victoria Loke, Janice Koh Yu-Mei, Amy Cheng, Chieng Mun Koh, Tan Kheng Hua, Selena Tan, Kris Aquino, Peter Carroll
If you think of Crazy Rich Asians as My Big Fat Chinese Wedding you sort of get the picture. Take a handful of Chinese ‘deep’ cultural values of ‘Tradition’ and ‘Family’ and ‘Honour’ and juxtapose these with the American ‘shallow’ belief in ‘Follow Your Passion’; then add insane amounts of money, old and new, and you have the basis for the bananas plot.
Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) is a bright Economics Professor who lives in New York with her boyfriend Nick Young (Henry Golding), who invites her to come to Singapore for the wedding of his best friend Charlie and Araminta. As they arrive there, Rachel finds out that Nick is the heir-apparent to an enormous business empire and fortune, to be handed down to him by his grandmother (Lisa Lu). In the week leading up to Charlie and Araminta’s wedding, Rachel has to deal with the complications of family and ex-girlfriends alike, but luckily she has her friend Peik Lin Goh (Awkwafina) to keep her sane. Peik Lin reminds her that she is a banana – yellow on the outside and white on the inside: she may be of Chinese parents but she was born and raised in America. And being a banana is the reason that Rachel’s mother-in-law-to-be Eleanor Young (Michelle Yeoh) is opposed to her relationship with her son Nick (Henry Goulding). Ah the plot thickens (not really).
Anyway, these are all details to set up the story – this is not a movie with messages, it is one to just watch for the outrageous extravagance. And it succeeds well at that – there are plenty of OTT situations that are very funny and it is an easy watch for its two hour running time. There are a few points where the excess becomes a bit too excessive, but luckily these don’t detract too much from the movie.
If you were to look for messages, it would have been nice if the (supposedly) opposing cultural values between Chinese and Americans were explored a bit more; because at the level presented you would actually think that culture is irrelevant: ‘overbearing matriarch doesn’t like son’s fiancee until she proves worthy against the odds’ is nothing new, be the matriarch Greek, Italian, Jewish or Chinese. It is also would have been a bit more authentic for a movie that centers around supposed Chinese people and cultural values to have more actual Chinese actors in the entire cast. Hollywood is filled with protests against people ‘appropriating other people’s culture’, and they would for instance not dare to have a native American be portrayed by someone other than the real thing. Yet in this flick we get hit with ‘bananas’ with American or Oxbridge accents left, right and centre. Lead actress Constance Wu was born in America from Taiwanese parents; lead actor Henry Golding is Malaysian from English/Malaysian parents; Ken Jeong is American from Korean parents; Awkwafina is American from Chinese/Korean parents; and Sonoya Mizuno is Japanese. Lisa Lu is actually the only Chinese-born from Chinese parents in the main cast (but a small part only) – she is best-known for her role in The Joy Luck Club, actually a more meaningful movie that does deal with Chinese women born in America from Chinese mothers from rural China, but I digress.
Crazy Rich Asians should be taken at face value and then it is a very entertaining movie indeed. Switch off and enjoy.