Updated: Jul 19, 2019
By Derek May:
YIN: Crazy Rich Asians
I’ve talked about romantic comedies before, especially their tendency toward paint-by-numbers storytelling. Part of that is the nature of the genre, what essentially defines it. So what we really look for in a good rom-com is its ability to overcome that formula and deliver on both expectations and innovation—not an easy task. Fortunately, Crazy Rich Asians is just crazy enough to pull it off.
The film is based on the first in a series of novels by Kevin Kwan, which tells the complicated love story of Rachel Chu and Nick Young. The first breath of fresh air is that we meet them already very much in love, a nice reprieve from the go-to meet-cute. Their delightfully happy average life together in New York is upheaved when Nick decides to bring Rachel home to Singapore to meet his family for a wedding. Rachel is soon thrust into the hellfire of a world she was blissfully ignorant of: that of the disgustingly wealthy Asian elite.
From this point, you don’t need to be a writer to start painting those numbers in: the family disapproves of Rachel, forces conspire to drive her and Nick apart—which ultimately happens—and only a magnificent grand gesture can hope to bring them back together. But there is enough originality and sincere character development to keep the audience emotionally invested in the cookie-cutter journey, and while the story does shadow the basic formula, it also cleverly skirts a number of trope-traps along the way (for example, we thankfully avoid the cliché of Rachel showing up to the party in far-too-pedestrian attire).
We also get a nice contrast to the rudimentary argument that money is the sole root of relationship evils through exploration of Astrid (Gemma Chan) and Michael’s (Pierre Png) fleeting attempts to avoid the pitfalls of a wealth deficit. It reinforces the theme that only by staying true to yourself can you hope be happy together. And at the risk of revealing too much, the ending even allows Rachel to use her brains, skills, and morals to overcome, even as she ultimately concedes.