directed by: JON M. CHU
written by: KEVIN KWAN, PETE CHIARELLI & ADELE LIM
RATED PG-13 || APPROX. 120 MIN || RELEASED AUGUST 15, 2018
In a world that is becoming increasingly cynical, especially in terms of romanticism, it can be difficult to make effective romantic comedies. The formula is so worn at this point that it takes a truly unique, or particularly effective, premise and team to make the genre work.
Crazy Rich Asians tows the line between embracing genre formulas and reinventing them; while the structure of its narrative follows the footpaths of films that have preceded it, it manages to bring a fresh, vibrant perspective to the genre that is steeped in cultural complexity and perfectly executed.
There are a few elements which help distinguish "good" romantic-comedies from bad ones. The former batch often have complex characters, swift editing, and engaging narratives. The narratives often take unique twists and turns, and their endings, while telegraphed, generally feel earned.
Crazy Rich Asians fits these distinctions like a glove. Not only is this film rich with complexity, its characters are layered and interesting. While it's quite overt that this film deals with different asian cultures and the ways in which they clash, it was interesting to view the dual views of what a matriarch should be or do in the family dynamic. Not only does this conflict inform the narrative and elevate the character work, it also helps add subtle characterization. Eleanor is a perfect example of this; her steely demeanor is frustrating to watch at first, but once at the mid-way point in the film the viewer is able to realize the ways her own mother, Ah Ma, influenced that closed off persona.
Crazy Rich Asians also manages to subvert the genre on the visual plane. Every frame of this film feels as grand as its characters and the country they reside in. Majestic, symmetrical composition often isolates Rachel as she navigates her new environment, while Eleanor is often framed alone, with long hallways or doorways behind her, making her more prominent in the frame, adding to her strength on screen. In addition to these small visual touches, there are also a few different sequences, including one showing text messages being sent between people, that utilize flashy, almost Tarantino-esque graphics that make these moments more kinetic and exciting.
As a whole, Crazy Rich Asians does not reinvent the wheel. However, at this point, that is not an expectations for romantic comedies. Rather, this film is at its best when its embracing its uniqueness and the rich, cultural complexity that helps set it apart from other films. This isn't just an important film in terms of the representation it provides people of color; it's important because it's a fun, energetic, and complex romantic-comedy that is always fun to watch and surprisingly emotional in spots. It's important because it's a good romantic comedy, and that is not always easy to come by.