'Crazy Rich Asians': What the Critics Are Saying
Does the Jon M. Chu-directed pic live up to the, well, crazy expectations? Reviewers weigh in.
The Crazy Rich Asians reviews are in, and critics are falling for the much-anticipated romantic comedy.
The Jon M. Chu-directed adaptation of Kevin Kwan's international best-seller follows NYU economics professor Rachel Chu (Constance Wu), who follows her boyfriend of two years, Nick Young (Henry Golding), to a wedding in his native Singapore to be his date. There, Rachel suddenly comes to terms with the fact that Nick's family is gobsmackingly wealthy, and that his family, especially his mother Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh), won't be easy to convince that she's a suitable match for Nick. Crazy Rich Asians also stars Awkwafina, Gemma Chan, Ken Jeong, Jimmy O. Yang and Chris Pang.
For The Hollywood Reporter, critic David Rooney wrote that, saddled as the film is with astronomical expectations given the dearth of Asian-fronted films at the U.S. multiplex, the film is "a thoroughly captivating exploration of the rarefied question of whether true love can conquer head-spinning wealth."
Rooney particularly admired the performances of Wu, Awkwafina (who earned the moniker "scene-stealer") and Yeoh, who he said refuses "to make her a one-dimensional dragon lady but rather a woman fiercely protective of her family and mindful of the kind of wife she thinks Nick will need in order to take his rightful place as head of their massive pan-Asian real estate empire."
Slate's Inkoo Kang elaborated on how the film, despite its Singaporean setting, is a distinctly American product. One of the ways it is: spectacle. "Emotionally layered, culturally specific, and frequently hilarious, Crazy Rich is a transportive delight, with food montages to die for (the film offers a splendid showcase of Singapore’s justly celebrated street-food scene) and a wedding processional so exquisite I started crying at its sheer beauty," Kang wrote. "As a product designed for crossover appeal, Crazy Rich is canny, too: Here in a single package are characters of Asian descent as both relatable and exotic."
Kang nitpicked the film for celebrating the capitalist pleasures of some of its characters while also shortchanging the development of some of the Singaporeans. Still, she conceded, "But Crazy Rich Asians isn’t really about crazy rich Asians anyway, so much as one American who gains a greater appreciation of where she comes from. It’s a great romance, but it’s most powerful as a story of her love with herself."
Justin Chang of the L.A. Times notes just how historic the film, and its cast, is for a Hollywood blockbuster. “It’s been 13 years since Memoirs of a Geisha, the last major studio picture to feature an all-Asian ensemble, and a full quarter-century since The Joy Luck Club, the last such production to grapple with the puzzle of contemporary Asian American identity. Those ridiculous statistics have saddled Crazy Rich Asians with equally ridiculous expectations; that future Asian-led projects are riding on this movie’s box-office success makes it awfully hard not to root for.”
“But it’s even harder not to root against a system predicated on such offensive conditions in the first place,” Chang continues. “What really needs shattering is the notion that people of color should have to earn the right to see themselves depicted in the first place. In a better world, Crazy Rich Asians wouldn’t have to prove or represent anything but itself, but here we are.”
Chang had issues with some of the film’s comedic moments, noting, “There’s a strained, exaggerated feel to much of the comedy overall, as if the filmmakers were nervous about not everyone getting the joke or uncertain of their audience,” yet, overall, writes, “the dramatic center holds, rather beautifully” and “it’s silly to think that any one picture could ever stand in for a place, a subject, a realm of experience as vast and intricate as the Asian continent and its countless diasporas.”
Vulture's Emily Yoshida says the film "is, at its heart, a fish-out-of-water story, and it has a lot more going for it than its literal money shots."
"Crazy Rich Asians is packed with oversize characters (and one too many pointless side plots), but it’s really a love triangle about moms. Once that’s made all too clear, it’s hard to get too excited about another opulent shindig, but Chu sends us out with one anyway, just making sure that we get several glasses of bubbly to wash down all that immigrant talk," Yoshida writes.
Over at Indiewire, Kate Erbland admired the film's culturally specific touches as it moves to Singapore: "The film wears its culture and heritage with ease — for instance, characters switch between English, Chinese and Malay slang — the kind of stuff Hollywood so rarely brings to big-budget studio features," she writes.
She added that the film will deliver for fans of Kwan's novel as the film "lovingly brings to life some of the novel’s standout scenes, even as Chiarelli and Lim’s screenplay snips away subplots that detract from Rachel’s journey."
However, Erbland notes that the film hits a rough patch in its third act, "which is tasked with pushing Rachel and Eleanor’s simmering feud to a shocking head, complete with soap opera twists and a genuinely emotional denouement." Still, she says the film does deliver — and appears to position the film for sequels.
Newsday’s Rafer Guzman calls the film a “delicious fantasy,” and that it stays away from the “usual Asian stereotypes” seen in Hollywood films. However, he notes that it “is thoroughly retrograde in every other way. Singapore’s high-society women are mostly backbiters, cat-scratchers or worse (one of Rachel’s rivals plants a dead fish in her bed, Godfather style), while the men are basically simple creatures with low social and emotional IQs.”
Overall, Guzman says the film “is nothing if not an escapist pleasure. It's as fizzy as Dom Perignon and as flashy as a pair of Louboutins — even if, in the end, it has the social conscience of a Faberge egg.”
Danny Yu of Time Out says, "Beneath its glitz and glamour, Crazy Rich Asians has something of a familiar set-up: the story of two lovers from different walks of life who are willing to challenge tradition for their own happiness. But the tale is infused with a modern sense of money and personal reinvention."
Yu states that director Chu "masterfully peppers the tale with epic views of Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay, an Avengers–style ensemble cast, expert-level bitchiness and a euphoric dance party. Wear your favorite jade and pearls—you’ll be clutching them."
The New York Post's Johnny Oleksinski gives the film three and a half stars, calling it "a defibrillator for a genre that flatlined ages ago."
He singles out Awkwafina's performance, calling her "a combination of Reba McEntire, Suze Orman and Mountain Dew."
Crazy Rich Asians will open in theaters on August 15.