CRAZY RICH ASIANS
Review by Michael Jacobson
Stars: Constance Wu, Henry
Golding, Michelle Yeoh, Gemma Chan, Lisa Lu, Awkwafina, Ken Jeong
Director: Jon M. Chu
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.39:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 121 Minutes
Release Date: November 20, 2018
“God forbid we lose the ancient Chinese tradition of guilting your children.”
I believe most movie fans know when they've seen something truly unique and incomparable. I also believe they know when they're watching something cliched, forumlaic and unoriginal to the point where you know where the picture is going to go several steps before it does.
Then you have a movie like Crazy Rich Asians, which turns normality on its head. It's so much the latter, almost to a fault...there's nothing in this story you haven't seen many, many times before. And yet, it's presented in such a way as to bring a genuine sense of freshness and vibrancy to the tale to the point where you forget all conventional wisdom and lose yourself in the magic. Frankly, when a film does that, that's about the highest compliment you can pay it.
Based on the popular novel by Kevin Kwan (who executive produced), Crazy Rich Asians also has the distinction of being the first Hollywood production with an all Asian cast. Yes, Hollywood, who loves to sit on its hill and deride its consumers for their supposed racism, has had a long history of reducing Asians to comical stereotypes (a la Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany's). Even one of this movie's co-stars, Ken Jeong, has made a success out of following the Hollywood formula.
No longer...this rich, comedic, beautiful and thoroughly engaging movie shows us worlds, cultures and characters seldom seen. And the most magnificent aspect is how it shows us they're really not so different, despite being a hemisphere away. And ridiculously rich, of course.
It's the old story of the girl who falls in love with a guy only to find out she doesn't quite fit in his world. But wait...this is no maid or checkout girl. Rachel (Wu) is American-born Chinese with a PhD and who serves a a professor of economics at New York University...successful by almost anyone's definition of the word.
Not so much, though, to the family of Nick (Golding). Nick loves Rachel and wants to take her to his home in Singapore to meet his family while he serves as best man to his lifelong friend. Rachel has no idea he's rich, but begins to suspect when shown to the first class cabin aboard an Asian airline. (Mental note: I need to add flying first class aboard an Asian airline to my bucket list.)
Nick's family is not just rich, but...well...CRAZY rich. And it doesn't take long for his mother (Yeoh) and grandmother (Lu) to disapprove of his choice of girl...while many of his siblings and cousins embrace Rachel, she finds herself constantly trying to prove herself to the family matriarchs, and to some of his friends, who see her as little more than an opportunist.
How does it all play out? Well, you can guess...as mentioned, this movie falls squarely in the formulaic category. But the experience is something else. This world is stunning, eccentric, colorful and beautiful, and is populated with many wonderful characters apart from the two charming leads. Some of them have married or are dating a bit below their social status, and the results haven't born well.
That's what makes this movie such a treat. You know it like the back of your hand, and at the same time, you've never seen anything like it. It takes the oldest tricks in the Hollywood vernacular and builds something you completely lose yourself in and never want to leave. These crazy rich Asians become a part of you, and much like the eccentric comedic vacationers in M. Hulot's Holiday, you leave already thinking how you can't wait to see them again.
This movie could have been made in a hundred different ways and inspired a reaction of disdain and dismissal from me in every last one of them. The fact that this cast, director Jon M. Chu and novelist Kevin Kwan took tired old parts and crafted something I now consider one of the best films of the year is nothing short of miraculous. I can't stop smiling.
I wish I could have seen this in a 4K presentation, but no matter...this disc is absolutely stunning. Beautiful, colorful and vibrant throughout, this is a treasure trove of gorgeous detail and crisp renderings. Definitely among the year's best.
Likewise, there are enough big scenes in this movie to make the uncompressed surround audio a powerful and delightful treat...I especially loved the Asian versions of American pop songs (I've been a fan of the late Anita Mui's for decades). This audio track will make you feel part of the largeness all the way.
The extras include a nice commentary from director Jon M. Chu and novelist Kevin Kwan, along with some deleted scenes, a gag reel, and a production featurette.
Crazy Rich Asians is a stunning bag of contradictions; the old and the new presented in an unforgettable, magical, engrossing way that will take you through all available emotions while leaving you awestruck in wonder at the same time. This is a must-own.