Monday, August 20, 2018

Crazy Rich Asians - Movie Review

The Movie: Crazy Rich Asians

The Director: Jon M. Chu

The Cast: Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, Gemma Chan, Lisa Lu, Awkwafina, Harry Shum Jr., Ken Jeong, Sonoya Mizuno, Chris Pang, Nico Santos, Jing Lusi

The Story: This contemporary romantic comedy, based on a global bestseller, follows native New Yorker Rachel Chu to Singapore to meet her boyfriend's family.

The Review:
The theater I saw this movie in was about 80% Asian and you could just feel the excitement as well as the buildup and outpouring of emotion from beginning to end. This is truly a big moment for Asian representation in cinema which I won't really get into for the simple fact that I don't feel completely qualified to discuss it as coherently as I would want to. I know this movie means so much to so many people and the pure joy that was felt across the board as everyone was leaving the theater was inspiring.

Representation in cinema is so important and this movie does everything it can to let Asian people see themselves both on screen and behind the scenes in a major Hollywood production without stereotypes or overused tropes that have been the norm for decades. This is so so important and the impact is already being felt in so many ways. If you're not sure what all this means, take a look at this Twitter post from Huffington Post contributor Kimberly Yam or this Twitter post from lead actress Constance Wu, they are much more qualified to talk about this so I will leave it to them. Instead, I get to tell you more of my thoughts about the movie.

If you've read the book, you get the basic idea of the story although, as always, there were several changes, omissions, and additions to the on screen adaptation so keep that in mind. If you haven't read the book, like me, you are going in fresh and won't know the difference so no big deal. From what I understand, the film makers were pretty faithful to the story and the spirit of the story so complaints have been minimal. The story, on a fundamental level, is pretty basic but that's okay because how the story is told and who the people are in the story are the things that really matter.

I really liked how the movie unfolds like a classic romantic comedy of years past and the characters are presented like the big classic movie stars of yesteryear would have portrayed them. Everything about the film, the music, the cinematography, the lighting, it all just feels like you are watching something special. Most impressive was the level of quality and detail coming from director Jon M. Chu who is most known for not so successful movies like Now You See Me 2 and Jem and the Holograms. Getting this particular movie right was of the utmost importance and Chu really stepped up his game to make sure that happened.

I am going to make a serious declaration about the cast of this movie. Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Awkwafina, and Gemma Chan all need to become major Hollywood stars from this very moment moving forward. Each of them kills their respective performances and you would never believe that this was Golding's first movie ever. Gemma Chan has a presence on screen that you just want to see more and more of and, since she has a role in the upcoming Captain Marvel movie, that is definitely going to happen. Awkwafina, who we saw recently in Ocean's Eight, builds off of that performance and absolutely explodes onto the screen in this movie with a personality and swagger that is absolutely unstoppable. She is hilarious, adorable, sexy, bad ass, and the perfect complement to Constance Wu's character as a best friend and confidante.

So yeah, Constance Wu. Welcome to mega stardom. She is fascinating, relatable, likable, funny, and can seemingly handle any moment and can match up against any other actor that is put in front of her. In fact, she even handles herself beautifully facing off against the one and only Michelle Yeoh who is basically a cinema legend around the world. Yeoh's take on this particular crazy-rich Asian mom is so impressive and she is basically like royalty both in character and off screen. If this sounds like hyperbole, just take a look at everything she has done over her 34 years of making movies. She has literally and figuratively kicked ass for decades on screen.

There are also a ton of great supporting roles that help to make this a truly memorable cast including the always fun to watch Ken Jeong, Chris Pang, Nico Santos, Jing Lusi, Jimmy O. Yang, and of course Lisa Lu who plays the matriarch of the family, the mother of Michele Yeoh's character, and the grandma to Henry Golding's character. I also have to mention Sonoya Mizuno who has been in some really great films of late like Annihilation and La La Land although I like to remember her fondly as the woman/robot who Oscar Isaac dances with in Ex Machina.

You know who else is in this movie? Kina Grannis! She is a fantastic singer songwriter who I have been following for several years now and her music is just lovely. There is a very key moment of the movie that is already super emotional and, in that moment, I could hear a familiar voice singing the timeless and classic Can't Help Falling in Love. Then the camera pans over to Kina singing on screen as herself and, as I realized it was her, it was over for me and all the emotions came out as tears of heartfelt joy. The movie had already been hitting my emotional buttons all over the place, but this was it. She is a wonderful person who has been through a lot in her life and always works so hard so I wanted to make sure I give her a proper moment of respect.

The Verdict:
Crazy Rich Asians is one of the best romantic comedies I have seen in a long time and is one of the best movies I have watched this year. The story is filled with emotion and there are so many iconic characters you will want to be friends with all of them. Go watch this movie as soon as you can and make sure to bring some tissue, you are going to need it.

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