PG-13 for fish guts and blood. There's some mild language. It's a generally hostile environment. Pre-marital sex seems to be fairly commonplace among this crowd. I'm not sure if there was drug use, but one of the character definitely seemed to be very into drug use. The big takeaway is that Crazy Rich Asians is about mean people being mean to less mean people. PG-13.
DIRECTOR: Jon M. Chu
I feel wildly inadequate to critique Crazy Rich Asians from a cultural perspective. I know that there is some kind of controversy surrounding this film, but I don't really know about it. While I pride myself on staying woke, there's only so many controversies I can keep in my head before I cuddle up in my couch and surround myself with the old standbys. I can't say that I'm an expert on Asian cultures. Within the title, it stresses that this is going to be a film about culture. While I have yet to see a movie that has "Ukrainian" in the title, I have had a fair share of cultural films where I can relate. Probably the most famous is Everything is Illuminated. I kind of co-opted My Big Fat Greek Wedding because there was way more cultural crossover than I was ready for. But when looking at Crazy Rich Asians, I was definitely watching it from an outsider's perspective.
My wife is always skeptical when it comes to me watching rom-coms. I apparently have a history of hating everything. I hate that I have been lumped in with hating an entire genre. When a rom-com is great, I will fight for it until my dying day. My big problem in the past is that rom-coms tend to be a bit lazy. (In my sleepy haze, I accidentally wrote "Crazy Rich Asians" tend to be lazy. I'm sure that's not at all offensive. Geez...) They rarely believe in themselves and are made on the cheap. Their ultimate goal is to be entertaining and schmaltzy, which are such low stakes. But films like Crazy Rich Asians actually sees itself as important. You know how people find confidence attractive? I like that quality in a film too. Crazy Rich Asians is a film that believes in itself. When that confidence is attached to a rom-com, there is more to the film as well. Oddly enough, the romance kind of becomes the back up story. No one would argue with you if you said that Crazy Rich Asians was a rom-com, but I really think that the rom-com element takes a backseat to a look at the importance of family and finance. This might only be bolstering my wife's insistence that I don't like rom-coms, but the romantic part of the film is actually the weakest part of the film. I'm not saying it's bad. (It's not great.) But the rest of the film actually has strong legs. I kind of want to look at that relationship. Apparently, Henry Golding, who plays the romantic male lead Nick Young, wasn't really an actor before this point. He's fine. He's a little one note, but the character is a little one note as well. I know people who are one note, so that's also a thing. (Don't be too handsome. That's your note.) But Nick kind of sucks as a character. The movie touches on how much he kind of sucks, but quickly glosses over it. A lot of this movie comes down to people not talking to each other. There was an era where stories could be told because cell phones didn't exist. When a major plot point needed to be communicated to someone else and it wouldn't be, you could write it off like that was a normal thing. Nick in Crazy Rich Asians is like in a pre-cell phone world. He has all this absolutely vital information for the lead, Rachel, but decides not to share any of that info. Come on. I know that there's a whole conversation about it, but you couldn't tell Rachel that you are insanely rich before you got on the plane. His reasoning is fine. For those people who can't wait to comment, I agree that his secret makes sense. But literally any moment before the plane would have been more appropriate. Then he tries downplaying his wealth? He's comfortable? Come on. The family is the 1% of the 1%. You thought that she wouldn't find out when she got there. Let's also establish that she only finds out from her roommate how rich they are. What did he want to happen? Did he want her to walk into that party wildly underdressed? Thank goodness her roommate was also rich and able to clothe her on the fly. So Nick kind of sucks. He doesn't suck on the grand scheme of sucky boyfriends. But he is mostly presented as a catch and with that, I cannot abide.
But the movie is only really partially about romantic relationships. Rather, this is a study of culture. Now, this is where I get a little bit confused. Is the movie a commentary on Asian ex-pats? Is the movie a commentary about the super rich? My wife stresses that the title of the movie's title is really the most accurate. There is a specific subculture that apparently makes quite a few waves. If Asian ex-pats have a ton of money, they then hold a specific set of values. I'm still waffling on whether this is a rich thing or an Asian thing, but it is interesting. But I suppose that a lot of this can be coupled into the subgenres that is currently occupied by films like Guess Who's Coming to Dinner and Meet the Parents. Crazy Rich Asians is a less funny Meet the Parents and a more funny Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. But what the rich element adds --and is totally necessary --is the aesthetics of the piece. Crazy Rich Asians looks gorgeous. The movie exists in a weird place that both affirms and degrades the crazy rich. I'm very used to the rich being portrayed as terrible people. The film definitely secures this legacy. Most of the cast totally sucks really hard. People are cruel and catty. Part of this comes from spoiled rich twenty-somethings. The other comes from an obsession with legacy. I have to believe that this comes from a culture simultaneously obsessed with cultural heritage and success. What is really interesting about the moral of the story is that cultural heritage is normally treated as something that is morally good and precious. But Crazy Rich Asians talks about how there is something really wrong with having too much of a good thing. Michelle Yeoh's Elenor seems completely unsympathetic. She's the clear villain of the story. I know I don't get how women talk to each other. I don't want to be all "women be like this", but I have learned that my wife hears conversations very differently than I do. I think everyone likes each other. She thinks that everyone hates each other. Crazy Rich Asians kind of proves my wife right. Do you know how frustrating that is? Michelle Yeoh's character is just the right level of evil. The logical part of my brain is sympathetic with her. I love her entire backstory because it makes her a naturally compelling character. The way she changes is a bit of a cop out. The movie doesn't take any cheap ways out and I applaud that. But the ending is a bit too cake-and-eat-it-too for me. Regardless, they get the ending they deserve, so I can't be too bitter.
In terms of funny, C-. Yup. I write these long diatribes and I beat around the bush (to secretly feel better about saying that I wrote a lot). But I rarely come out and say in a quantifiable way what I feel about certain elements. I hem and I haw and I stall, as proven by the current sentence. But with this case, I want to say that the movie isn't that funny. That's okay. Honestly, it is. I'm completely fine with the movie not being a side-splitting laugh riot. The movie tries to be funny. There's a handful of really comic characters. Awkwafina is good, but she isn't great. I'm sorry. I wanted to be on board that train, but it just wasn't really happening for me. Even Ken Jeong doesn't really crack me up. Comedy is super subjective. There's nothing flawed with the comedy, but it definitely isn't aimed at me. I know what my sense of humor is and it isn't really this. Sometimes I get mad at comedy, but I guess I really shouldn't. I'm sure I scoffed at times, but I never really had a solid guffaw in the movie. But even with the mediocre comedy (considering that it is a comedy!) I never found myself bored or annoyed. Really, the movie is really pretty to look at with fairly compelling characters. I never knew I wanted to go to Singapore, but the movie makes it look awesome. I'm not just talking about the extravagant parties or anything. That actually was the least appealing elements of the the movie. Really, I'm talking about seeing fantastic street vendors and the spectacular locale. I know. I'm seeing the tourism bureau's version of Singapore. Well, applause all around to a well-conceived tourism bureau because it was awesome. Part of that comes from the absolutely baller soundtrack that Crazy Rich Asians adds to the mise en scene. Honestly, I hope the soundtrack plays in Singapore 24/7 because it adds so much to the film. What helps me experience the setting of Crazy Rich Asians is the fact that Rachel, deftly played by Constance Wu, is a compelling character. Again, Nick can jump off a tower covered by a boat looking structure. But Constance Wu has the emotional weight of the movie on her shoulders. She's such a good guy in this movie. She's not completely perfect, but she's close enough. I love morally complex characters, but sometimes it is nice to have a character who is always the good guy. Rachel is that perfect character. She always makes the right choice. You honestly feel bad for her when she's hurt. It's because she's surrounded by these terrible human beings that make you okay with the fact that she's perfectly fine when it comes to doing things right all the time. It might actually be hard to play such a great character. All of the other actors are allowed to indulge in dark stuff and you have to be perfect the entire time. Regardless, good for Constance Wu. She's great in this.
I enjoyed the movie quite a bit. It's never going to go on a favorite list. But considering that I'm far from the target audience for this movie, I watched a movie that had ambition and managed to pull off most of the things it was going for. Not every movie was made for me, but that doesn't mean that I don't notice quality and talent. The movie is pretty fun. I enjoyed it. Yeah, it's a bit tropey. But it uses those tropes as a starting point and then goes in lots of fun directions. I'm impressed.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.