Film of the week: minor flaws don’t mar this excellent romcom

Still from Crazy Rich Asians
Constance Wu as Rachel Chu: “crazy good fun”

Crazy Rich Asians

Directed by Jon Chu

Certificate 12A, on general release

Crazy Rich Asians is a peek into the world of Singapore’s billionaire class – “a gawping entrée into a world rarely seen on screen”, as Tom Shone puts it in The Times. The romantic comedy has won plaudits for being the first Hollywood movie for many years to feature a mostly Asian and Asian-American cast. It has, indeed, been hailed as a breakthrough in the screen representation of Asians, and has been a box-office smash hit, taking $164m this summer.  But more than all this, it is, as Shone says, “crazy good fun, the best romcom in ages”.

The film is based on the novel by Kevin Kwan and set among South-East Asia’s super-rich. New York University professor Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) takes a trip back to Singapore to meet the parents of her boyfriend, fellow academic Nick Young (Henry Golding). Young’s parents are not only billionaires, but one of the city-state’s most respected “old money” families. Rachel’s shock is as nothing compared with the horror of Nick’s mother (Michelle Yeoh) at the thought that her son might seriously consider marrying an outsider, rather than the daughter of another illustrious family. Yeoh, in particular, gives a show-stopping performance, lauded by many reviewers.

Chu reads The Economist, engages at one point in a talk about micro-loans, and triumphs in the end by putting her knowledge of game theory to good use. That aside, however, the film’s discussion of business and finance starts and ends with the endless shots of fancy cars, excessive architecture and expensive jewellery. At one point there’s even an orgiastic bachelor party, though thankfully this steers clear of the worst of the crassness we saw in The Wolf of Wall Street.

Ironically, though, the most telling comment about Asia’s economic power doesn’t come from the wealth displayed on screen, but the fact that the book’s final plot twist is discreetly tweaked, removing references to Chinese corruption and the one-child policy in an attempt to placate Beijing’s censors.

The film isn’t big on subtlety and seems to want to overturn just one big cliché, as Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian says: that rich people are bad. But overall, director Jon Chu, and screenwriters Peter Chiarelli and Adele Lim, have produced a good, wholesome romantic comedy that the whole family will enjoy.

The film could have been a little longer to allow the sub-plot involving Nick’s sister, Astrid, to play out properly, but the minor flaws are more than outweighed by the great acting and strong production values. Given that the film has already been incredibly successful at the box office, I eagerly look forward to the sequel. Highly recommended.