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Review: Crazy Rich Asians (Jon M. Chu)

Henry Golding, Awkwafina and Constance Wu in Crazy Rich Asians

You know what's really crazy? The lies we've been sold for year after year, decade after decade, about what does and does not work, what will and what will not sell, from Hollywood. Along comes Crazy Rich Asians, an integrally Asian story from an essentially Asian perspective, but within an American genre framework. The story goes that this just isn't supposed to work, that it's certainly not going to sell, that audiences are only willing to stomach commercial Asian movies if the kung fu quotient is high and the cultural specificities are low. This isn't just a film to prove Hollywood wrong, to break its mould - this is a film to show that said mould was just plain crazy.

The extent to which Crazy Rich Asians not only functions but thrives within this framework is the beginning, middle and end of the new story as it goes, a point made succinctly and successfully by this glowing, glittering rom-com. The only thing shining brighter than the dazzling jewellery upon its photogenic cast is that cast itself. Every actor fulfils the responsibilities of their role to winning effect, whether Awkwafina as rambunctious comic relief, Henry Golding as swoon-worthy leading man, or the majestic Michelle Yeoh as the film's indomitable villain (it's a rom-com, so it's obvious what such a part constitutes - the principal impediment to the central couple's happiness). Yeoh has always possessed an astonishing ability to convey a character's entire history through micro-movements in her poise and expression, even in its most stoic repose. She can deliver a comprehensive variety of emotional signals through what appears, even on close inspection, to be precisely the same mannerisms and demeanour, and yet you're never less than entirely convinced. She's the brightest star in an ensemble spilling over with them.

Naturally, the film's insistent adherence to convention hinders its otherwise unimpeded ascent to the top of its game, and that of virtually every other work of its ilk. You can sense every upcoming development both in the long- and in the short-term, but it's the minor modulations made amid such a rigorous structure, and the proficiency with which all of this is achieved, that make Crazy Rich Asians so thoroughly watchable. And it manages that most crucial achievement of any rom-com - it makes you root for the main characters' relationship. The goodness of these characters and the charisma of leads Constance Wu and Golding make our investment in their partnership inevitable. On this, and this alone, Crazy Rich Asians could be deemed a resounding success, but we all know that it reaches such a status by many other means. In moulds old and new alike, this is a top-rate accomplishment.

Image Credit: MovieStillsDB

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