Movie Review: Crazy Rich Asians
By Danny Pellegrino
August 9, 2018
The best romantic comedies remind you to believe in love. If you’re watching with a significant other, you’ll reach for their hand during the big, sweeping romantic gestures onscreen. If you’re watching with friends, you’ll leave the theater texting your boyfriend or girlfriend, you’ll come home with a smile and kiss your husband or wife, or you’ll hop on Tinder and swipe right on more prospects than usual. Crazy Rich Asians does that.
There are other things that I think are crazy important when it comes to romcoms. Often these qualities get overlooked, leaving audiences with the underwhelming fare that has populated cinemas over the last decade. Every movie doesn’t need all of these, but some of these are important to make a lasting impression among movies-about-love lovers…
1. Chemistry between the two leads. Tom and Meg are the first that come to mind, but Julia and Richard Gere had a rapport in Pretty Woman that made you forget the age difference between them. Sanaa Lathan and Omar Epps were a perfect pair in Love & Basketball. Omar would soften anytime he was onscreen with Sanaa, and vice versa. Michelle Pfeiffer and George Clooney had a back and forth in the underrated One Fine Day that made you root for the two of them to get together, despite dialogue that wanted them apart. It was all because of chemistry.
2. Food porn. Nancy Meyers has perfected this—the closeups of food within the film. I’m talking about the shots of croissants in It’s Complicated, or the pasta we see at the dinner table in Something’s Gotta Give. Nancy has made this an art, confident that the intimacy of food will bring the audience into the world.
3. Cozy sets. Speaking of Nancy Meyers, she knows how to do kitchens. It’s not just Nancy that has perfected this, however. Nora Ephron (R.I.P. my queen) made the coziest movie of all with You’ve Got Mail. There are scenes in quaint bookstores and stunning city apartments. It shows New York City at its most picturesque.
4. Comedy. Sometimes romantic comedies forget the comedy. Typically, romcoms leave the laughs up to the supporting cast. Judy Greer gets the best lines in everything she does. Before her it was Bonnie Hunt stealing scenes as the BFF. The leads always get a laugh here or there, but it’s the supporting cast that provides the LOLs.
5. Music. Who can forget “When You Say Nothing at All” in Notting Hill? Or “Kiss Me” in She’s All That? How about Eva Cassidy’s “Songbird” playing as Laura Linney first kisses Rodrigo Santoro in Love Actually? A good romcom will make you want to download the music and fantasize about your own love scene. And those sweeping scores tell us when there is a big moment. Remember in My Best Friend’s Wedding when Julia and Dermot were on a boat in Chicago? The beautiful score heightened our excitement when we thought they might kiss, and then comforted us when the moment passed them by.
6. Unique worlds. My Big Fat Greek Wedding was a huge success because it showed audiences a world that was different, but familiar. In the film Jumping the Broom, we see a wedding tradition that is foreign to those of us outside the culture of the lead characters, but it’s genuinely exciting to get a sneak peek into a new world and the sentiments feel familiar to all of us. Different cultures have different customs. Showcasing specific cultures is an interesting look inside for many, and reminds us that although our practices may differ, we can all relate. It reminds us that love is universal.
These are just a few of my favorite romcom tropes. Crazy Rich Asians checks each one off of that list. Without spoiling the film, the two leads have incredible chemistry. Constance Wu, who has proven her talents week after week on ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat, is both stunning and a relatable girl next door (this balance is what skyrocketed Meg Ryan and Sandra Bullock to romcom queens in the 90s). You want to be friends with her, and lust after her at the same time. She’s also an incredible actress, and a strong presence that pulls off the comedy and drama that is needed. The male lead, Henry Golding, is handsome, charming, and all-around swoon-worthy. Straight women and gay men will be searching Instagram as they leave the theater to follow this charismatic and beautiful man. Together, Constance and Henry will make you believe in their onscreen love. You will root for them to be together.
There are also beautiful sets, food porn, music (the “Can’t Help Falling in Love” scene is worth the price of admission and something I will no doubt watch over and over again on YouTube as soon as it is made available), and comedy. Like I said before, oftentimes the comedy gets overlooked in a romcom. Crazy Rich Asians doesn’t forget to make you laugh. The leads have their moments, but it’s Awkwafina (seen earlier this summer in Ocean’s 8) and Nico Santos (of NBC’s Superstore) who pop in and out of scenes to make us belly laugh. Their scenes are electric, and you will leave wanting them to be in everything.
Finally, the film is set in a unique world. Much has been made about the all-Asian cast, and for good reason. It’s so incredibly rare to see a cast like this. It’s thrilling to know men and women, and boys and girls, who don’t typically see themselves represented on screen will be able to go to the cinema and see a big-budget film starring people who look like them. For everyone else, it’s exciting to see a world we may not be familiar with. In these incredibly divisive times, seeing people who are different looking, but dealing with the same emotions we all do, I hope, will help unite us.
The story is great (the film is based on a book by Kevin Kwan and adapted for screen by Adele Lim and Peter Chiarelli). The jokes are tight and fresh. It’s beautifully shot. There’s compelling drama. Michelle Yeoh is as flawless as you’d expect her to be. Everyone is pretty to look at. In other words, all the ingredients are there.
My favorite romcoms are like a warm hug or a bowl of soup. They are the comfort food I can watch on TV at home when I’m feeling down or sad. I watch You’ve Got Mail more times than I can count every year because it’s comfortable. It’s happy. It’s effortless. It’s smart. Crazy Rich Asians is all of those things, and I know it will be something I watch over and over again when I need it most. Crazy Rich Asians reminded me to believe in love.