Crazy Rich Asians: Bright, buoyant, and hilarious | Sunday Observer

Crazy Rich Asians: Bright, buoyant, and hilarious

29 August, 2021

Crazy Rich Asians is a 2018 American romantic comedy-drama film directed by Jon M. Chu, from a screenplay by Peter Chiarelli and Adele Lim, based on the 2013 novel of the same title by Kevin Kwan. The film stars Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Gemma Chan, Lisa Lu, Awkwafina, Ken Jeong, and Michelle Yeoh. It follows a Chinese-American professor who travels to meet her boyfriend’s family and is surprised to discover they are among the richest in Singapore.

The film was announced in August 2013 after the rights to the book were purchased. Many of the cast members signed on in the spring of 2017, and filming took place from April to June of that year in parts of Singapore, Malaysia and New York City. It is the first film by a major Hollywood studio to feature a majority cast of Chinese descent in a modern setting since The Joy Luck Club in 1993. Despite praise for this, the film received some criticism for casting biracial actors over fully ethnically Chinese ones in certain roles. Additional criticism was directed at the film for failing to include non-Chinese Singaporean ethnic groups—such as Malay and Indian actors—as characters.


Crazy Rich Asians premiered on August 7, 2018, at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles and was released theatrically in the United States on August 15, 2018, by Warner Bros. Pictures. A major critical and commercial success, the film grossed over $238 million on a budget of $30 million, making it the highest-grossing romantic comedy of the 2010s, and received high praise for the performances of its cast (especially of Wu and Yeoh), the screenplay, and production design. The film received numerous accolades, including the 76th Golden Globe Awards nominations for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy and Best Actress – Motion Picture Comedy or Musical for Wu. It received a nomination at the 50th NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Motion Picture. It also received four nominations at the 24th Critics’ Choice Awards, winning one for Best Comedy, and a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture at the 25th Screen Actors Guild Awards. Two sequels, based on the novel’s follow-ups China Rich Girlfriend and Rich People Problems, are in development.

Critical response

On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 91 percent based on 351 reviews, with an average rating of 7.65/10. The website’s critical consensus reads, “With a terrific cast and a surfeit of visual razzle dazzle, Crazy Rich Asians takes a satisfying step forward for screen representation while deftly drawing inspiration from the classic—and still effective—rom-com formula.” On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 74 out of 100, based on 50 critics, indicating ‘generally favourable reviews’ Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of “A” on an A+ to F scale, while PostTrak reported filmgoers gave it an 85 percent positive score and a 65 percent “definite recommend”. On the Chinese social networking website Douban, the film scored 6.2 out of 10, which Variety called a “middling” rating.

Joe Morgenstern, writing for The Wall Street Journal, found the film to be “Bright, buoyant, and hilarious,” making special note of the large number of quality performances from the cast members: “And anyone with a sense of movie history will be moved by the marvelous Ms. Yeoh, who was so memorable as the love-starved fighter in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and by 91-year-old Lisa Lu, who plays Nick’s grandmother and the matriarch of his family. Anyone, in this case, means anyone. Crazy Rich Asians includes us all”. Ann Hornaday, writing for The Washington Post, deemed the film an “escapist rom-com delight” and remarked that “It will more than satisfy the sweet tooth of romantic comedy fans everywhere who have lately despaired that the frothy, frolicsome genre they adore has been subsumed by raunch and various shades of gray”; she also compared the film’s rom-com themes to Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994).

Time magazine published an extended cultural review of the film by Karen Ho, which compared the high fashion appeal of the film to rival the best of previous films such as The Devil Wears Prada. Ho summarises the film’s success as an uphill battle against the season’s predominantly superhero oriented audiences: “To many in Hollywood, Crazy Rich Asians might look like a risky bet. It’s the first modern story with an all-Asian cast and an Asian-American lead in 25 years; the last Joy Luck Club, was in 1993. It’s an earnest romantic comedy in a sea of action and superhero films...In fact, it seems destined to be a hit.” In the same magazine, Stephanie Zacharek called the film as “simply great fun, a winsome romantic comedy and an occasionally over-the-top luxury fantasy that never flags,” while at the same time hailing the film as a breakthrough in representation and lauded the performances and chemistry of Wu and Golding as well as the supporting performances (particularly Yeoh, Ken Jeong, Nico Santos and Awkwafina).

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave the film four stars out of five; he called it “frothy fun” and a “hilarious, heartfelt blast” while hailing the film as “making history” in its cultural representation in mainstream cinema and highlighting the performances (particularly Yeoh, whose performance he called “layered”). Writing for Chicago Sun-Times, Richard Roeper described the film as a “pure escapist fantasy fun” and “24-karat entertainment” while praising Wu’s and Golding’s performances and chemistry, and complimented Golding’s natural onscreen presence and his good sense of comedic timing. David Sims of The Atlantic lauded the film as a “breath of fresh air” and a “charming throwback” to the classic romantic comedy films while commending Chu’s direction, the “hyperactive” screenplay, and the performances of Wu and Yeoh.

Justin Chang in a review for the Los Angeles Times found the film worthy of comparison to other films using an Asian ensemble cast including Memoirs of a Geisha, Letters from Iwo Jima, and The Joy Luck Club. Chang found the supporting cast performance of Michelle Yeoh to be exceptional, stating “you can’t help but hang on Eleanor’s (Michelle Yeoh’s) every word. In a crisp, authoritative, sometimes startlingly vulnerable performance that never lapses into dragon-lady stereotype, Yeoh brilliantly articulates the unique relationship between Asian parents and their children, the intricate chain of love, guilt, devotion and sacrifice that binds them for eternity”.

In his review for The New York Times, A. O. Scott indicates that the film’s appeal surpasses contemporary social mores dealing with wealth and touches on themes examined in the literature of “endless luxury” over the centuries stating that this is “...part of the film’s sly and appealing old-fashionedness. Without betraying any overt nostalgia, Crazy Rich Asians casts a fond eye backward as well as Eastward, conjuring a world defined by hierarchies and prescribed roles in a way that evokes classic novels and films. Its keenest romantic impulse has less to do with Nick and Rachel’s rather pedestrian love story than with the allure of endless luxury and dynastic authority. Which I guess is pretty modern after all”. Peter Debruge of Variety wrote that the movie “expertly manages to balance the opulence of incalculable wealth with the pragmatic, well-grounded sensibility” of its protagonist; he also drew comparisons of the film’s visual style and tone to Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby (2013) as well to the wedding sequence in Mamma Mia! (2008). Robbie Collin of The Daily Telegraph gave the film four stars out of five, and wrote that the film was “a mouthwatering slice of deluxe romcom escapism” and “plays like a Jane Austen novel crossed with a Mr. & Mrs. Smith brochure” while lending his praise on the performances of Wu, Golding, Yeoh, and Awkwafina.

Scott Mendelson, writing for Forbes, found the film to be below average and to have an uneven plot line with contrived humor similar to his opinion of the 2002 film My Big Fat Greek Wedding stating: “Without having read the book, I might argue that the core flaw of Crazy Rich Asians is that it’s so determined to be the Asian-American version of the conventional Hollywood romantic comedy that it becomes a deeply conventional romantic comedy, complete with the bad, the good and the generic tropes. It’s well-acted and offers plenty of cultural specificity, but the supporting characters are thin and the need to be universal hobbles its drama”.

He was joined in his criticism by Kate Taylor of The Globe and Mail, who wrote: “As the obscenities of wealth accumulate while a large cast of Asian and Eurasian actors render their many silly characters, the source of the laughter becomes troubling.” David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter gave a mixed review, in which he criticised the film’s pacing as “uneven” but nevertheless similarly praised the performances and chemistry of Wu and Golding, and singled out Wu’s performance as the film’s real heart. Tony Wong of Toronto Star argued the film “doesn’t blow away stereotypes. It reinforces them. There is little room for subtlety here—the title underlines the mission statement. Asians are rich, vulgar and clueless.”