Crazy Rich Asians: A Film Review


Image result for crazy rich asians poster
Source: Kaleidoscope.

Well, it’s been over a month since I watched Crazy Rich Asians in theaters, and now I’m finally getting around to reviewing it. Admittedly, it’s a tad late, and I’ve seen plenty of other blog and online reviews for the film– all the same, I’m going to go ahead and give my two cents on CRA.

*WARNING* Spoilers in this post, so if you don’t want to know what happens in the film, then I would first watch it before reading this. You’ve been warned!

I knew that the film was hyped before it even hit theaters, namely from the Asian YouTubers I watched who were promoting it. Same went for the occasional commercial on television– being Asian-American (and proud of it), I was definitely interested in watching it before I had to leave for France within the last five days of being in the U.S. I doubt that CRA will hit the big screens abroad for a while, as international films take forever to come over, let alone get horribly dubbed into their respective language (I HATE French dubs). But I digress…

Any case, I went with my mom the day after it was released (August 15th) to the movies. I didn’t have a lot of expectations going in, so I just let the movie take its course and carry me away. Two or so hours later, the film ended, and I exited the theater with a few thoughts about it.

I will say that my overall impression of the film is that it’s not as heavy-handed as one might believe it to be. Especially with the hype about it being a “ground-breaking mainstream Asian-American film” since The Joy Luck Club over 25 years ago, I didn’t think it was so much of that than of just pure, lighthearted fun. CRA was more of a visual fest than a substantial one, but all the same I was delighted at the cinematography of everything. From the cosmopolitan views of Singapore to the street food porn in the film’s beginning to the colorful, over-the-top garments of the posh Singaporean society, I found myself dazzled with all of the aesthetics– props to the costume and design team for making it all look so good!

Yes, I admit that CRA did touch on some Asian-American issues, but more on what I would say are generational gaps and cultural differences between Asian-Ams and Singaporean Asians. In other words, the film shed light on tradition and modern norms, a recurring theme throughout especially between Rachel (played by the awesome Constance Wu) and Eleanor (by the OG great Michelle Yeoh). I related really hard to Rachel, as I’m Asian-American and grew up with different values and opinions compared with folks of previous generations (e.g. my parents, my grandparents).

Growing up in the U.S., I have at times come across instances in which they’ve challenged my identity, both as a first-generation ABC and as an American citizen. There have been moments where I’ve felt out-of-place, wondering whether or not I feel “American enough,” or if I’m doing a good job of preserving my Asian roots. It’s complicated, and those experiences have shaped my values and beliefs over the years. At times, my values have clashed with my parents and grandparents, who grew up in very different circumstances, which can either make or break relationships with each other.

I think, though, much of these clashes come from a place of love, and CRA does highlight that. For instance, Eleanor might come across as domineering (and admittedly, a bitch to Rachel), but it’s from her love of her son, Nick (played by the dashing Henry Golding). She wants to uphold their family tradition, and organic love might ruin that. It can be all too easy to paint her as the antagonist of the story, but seeing where she’s coming from (e.g. her marriage not being approved by her own mother) can offer insight into the person she is today.

The mahjong scene was an especially touching one. Even if you don’t know the rules of the game (I admit, my knowledge on it is quite limited, as I’ve only ever played it once), you can deduce that the interaction between Rachel and Eleanor demonstrates the two of them trying to outdo each other, more specifically trying to show each other who’s “right” when it comes to love, marriage, and tradition. The exchange is intense, but also heartbreaking when Rachel allows Eleanor to win, but not before showing her that she’s worth Nick’s love. Besides showing that winning isn’t everything (as Eleanor technically did win the game of mahjong), it also shows the painful, but necessary sacrifice Rachel went through to show her perspective on life and love– in the end, Eleanor realizes that, and she allows Rachel to marry her son.

I guess besides the fanciful cinematography and the simple, but effective themes of love and tradition, the film itself was a tad too rushed towards the end when it was a matter of Nick proposing to Rachel just before she took her flight back to the U.S. A bit sentimental, too, but being a rom-com, I’ll let it slide. The two-hour length actually didn’t feel so bad, as I found myself completely entertained scene-to-scene. Not to say that the time whizzed by, but it didn’t seem to drag at any point in the film.

I enjoyed Rachel’s character, as I think many Asian-Americans can relate: a good career, independence, and insecurities about being accepted as both an Asian and an American. Besides her, I loved Peik Lin, as played by the scene-stealing Awkwafina– I also saw her in Ocean’s 8, and I love that she’s going places in the mainstream film industry! She’s absolutely hilarious and goofy, and it made CRA such a pleasure to watch. Gemma Chan’s Astrid was also a favorite, and her story-line was so understated– granted, it isn’t her film, but I think it’s something worth diving into with the sequel (yes, it’s confirmed that there will be a sequel!). Plus, I could look at Chan’s beautiful face all day. #massivegirlcrush

Any case, these are some of my opinions on CRA. It’s a bit scattered, I know, but all the same I just wanted to get them out there to share with you all. If you’ve seen the film, let me know your thoughts! Definitely worth checking it out, if you haven’t already, as I think its rom-com status and themes of family and love are pretty universal to anyone out there, Asian or not.

— The Finicky Cynic

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11 thoughts on “Crazy Rich Asians: A Film Review

  1. You are so articulate! As an Asian American myself I know exactly where you’re coming from where you kind of feel the need to be both American and Asian but sometimes not enough or too much especially when it comes to the expectations of elders. Also I don’t actually know how to play mahjong so I really like how you dissected that scene. That makes a lot of sense now. I had actually thought that Rachel had won. I definitely cried near the end of that scene though when you find that Rachel’s Mum was right there in the room too!! My family is from Singapore too and I feel like class can be a pretty big deal. So I could completely understand why Nick’s Mum was the way she was. It almost was like it was nothing personal against Rachel. The Mum just wanted her boy to marry someone of their own which was basically exactly the situation with my parents. My mum is the Singaporean who married a foreigner so here we are in the US now! But at the time there was a lot of fighting with my mum dating and eventually marrying a foreigner. Most of my mums family didn’t even attend the wedding. Sorry this ended up being way longer than I meant to! I loved your review though! I think I’ll write one soon too!

    1. rebbit7

      Thanks for the comment! It’s interesting to read about your perspective on the film, and I can imagine that it’s even more relatable to you and your family. Class definitely has a strong hold in certain societies, and it can be tough to break it– essentially, it boils down to money over love, or love over money (seems like neither are inclusive of the other). I would love to read your review of CRA, should you post it!

  2. I want to see this movie because of the interesting dynamics of how Asians navigate socioeconomic class in the paradigm of a relationship. Also its great to see a cast like this make a movie that is wildly successful.

    1. rebbit7

      You should definitely watch CRA! Even if you’re not Asian and don’t necessarily identify with the culture, it’s themes of love beyond socioeconomic status is quite universal. Give it a go!

  3. Loved this movie and agreed with basically all your points! Cannot wait for the sequel and particularly to see Harry Shum Jr. and Gemma Chan steal the movie with their loveline ❤

    P.S. Ironically, I have a post scheduled for tomorrow where I discuss Crazy Rich Asians too! I thought I was the only one a little late to the game haha.

    1. rebbit7

      Yes, I’m looking forward to the sequel! I actually missed the end credits scene with Chan and Shum, Jr. but I imagine it was adorable. Would love to read your thoughts on CRA. Can’t wait!

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