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Review: Crazy Rich Asians

Review: Crazy Rich Asians

Thankfully 2018 seems to be something of a banner year for Western studios realising that ‘Hey, minorities see movies too!’ Along with Disney’s Black Panther and A Wrinkle in Time bringing Afro-futurism mainstream (with varying degrees of success), we now have a Warner Bros. release marketed squarely at an Asian-American market. The fact that these films are getting the budgets they are is reason enough for celebration, with Crazy Rich Asians being made for $30 million, but the fact that it saw a $219 million return with a sequel already in development signals that this really is starting a trend.

The film itself is a light-hearted, glitzy affair with sufficient drama to call compelling. It follows Rachel, played by Constance Wu, a young economics professor who accompanies her boyfriend (A Simple Favor’s Henry Golding) home to Singapore for his friend’s wedding, whereupon she discovers not only his family’s staggering wealth but their barely masked antipathy to outsiders, eventually building to an electric confrontation with his standoffish mother (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’s Michelle Yeoh). Like this year’s The Heiresses what is more noteworthy when watching as a Caucasian viewer is not that the film follows Asian characters, but that it has virtually no non-Asian ones, even Black Panther had its token nice white guy. The only white characters to appear are as are stuck up cartoon racists in the films controversial opening and mute bikini girls dancing in the background (and in one stunningly tone-deaf moment being blasted off a stage by a rocket launcher).

It’s unfortunate that for a film so justly lauded for its progressiveness, it is sadly quite regressive in other respects. I mean that it features a shockingly dated magical-gay-best-friend and a comedy creeper who secretly takes photos of the main character. I guess progress isn’t always linear.

Perhaps as a result that the film is aware that it is breaking new ground in regards to the skin tone of its characters, it is anxious not to break any elsewhere, the story and tone are Mamma Mia! without any songs. The film makes a great tourism advent for Singapore, with some scenes quite blatant in this regard. The film does a little to hit enough of the right notes that I want to be kind to it, it takes a swipe in enough of the right directions and just about gets away with what it’s doing. It ultimately has a good enough message and corny though it is there are a few genuinely romantic scenes to appeal to my inner softie and a couple of funny lines, no more than three though.

The performances varied from quite good to below par with actors occasionally selling a big comic moment or dramatic beat, Awkwafina will be asked to do something like walk up a flight of stairs and take a selfie and she’ll manage to do it in such a way to get a laugh, however most of the male leads were honestly really wooden and just there to look hot (which they managed, even for me). For most of the film’s overstretched runtime, I was prepared to call myself disappointed but I did honestly like the third act quite a lot, it was sweet, potent and occasionally quite touching. For those looking for an unapologetic, glamorous ‘chick-flick’ and suffering Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again withdrawal, you could do an awful lot worse.

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