Nowadays it’s difficult choosing from the myriad of Asian-led Hollywood films a Hollywood film with an entirely Asian cast is as common as making a snowman in Miami Beach. Crazy Rich Asians, the Jon M. Chu-directed film based on the Kevin Kwan book of the same name, is the first of its kind since 1993’s The Joy Luck Club. By my math, that’s 25 years (TWENTY! FIVE! YEARS!) since anyone in the Southland has had the balls to cater to Asian-Americans. An unforgiving spotlight is on Hollywood and its epic lack of diversity, and Asian-Americans have waited far too long for something like this. Powered by Chu, Kwan, a script co-written by Peter Ciarelli and Adele Kim and a cast of fairly well-known Asian and Asian-American actors, Warner Bros. hopes this rom-com can be a gamechanger, much like Black Panther earlier this year.

Starring Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Gemma Chan, Awkwafina, Michelle Yeoh, Ken Jeong, Shang Su Yi and Nico Santos, Asians is a fish out of water tale cloaked by a love story. Wu, known best as the Huang matriarch Jessica in Fresh Off the Boat, is Rachel Chu, a college economics professor at NYU. She travels to Singapore with her longtime boyfriend, Nick Young (Golding), since he’s best man at his friend’s wedding. Rachel will finally meet Nick’s family – a daunting task if ever there was one. But unbeknownst to Rachel is the revelation that Nick is more than he’s been letting on. Nick is wealthy - VERY wealthy as his family is successful real estate developers. Rachel, already pressuring herself to impress Nick’s tiger mom Eleanor (Yeoh) and doting grandmother Ah Ma (Lisa Lu), now has to contend with the Young’s uber-wealthy relatives and friends (not to mention Nick’s jealous ex-girlfriends and potential suitors). Crazy Rich Asians is 120 minutes of culture and economic clashing with a bit of love and humor (and some Asian-centric inside jokes) thrown in.

Thanks to Jon M. Chu and Kevin Kwan, Asians is a special film that’s more universal than one might think. It explores themes that range from being a mocked outsider, choosing between family and lover, and staying true to your upbringing. And being picked on and standing up to bullies – who hasn’t had to endure that drama? Regardless of ethnicity or gender, the aforementioned themes forever span the world over, creating undeniable appeal and charm.

From that standpoint, Asians isn’t just for Asians, but just for good measure shooting in Malaysia and Singapore adds plenty of exoticism. Just like Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee and Woody Allen used New York City to add depth to their films, Singapore does the same thing here (and shooting in Singapore is a genius choice since the city-state is home to many different ethnicities). Asians’ locales are essential characters and they enhance the film’s beauty.

Speaking of beauty, Chu, Golding and Chan prove beauty exists both inside and out. Wu has excellent comedic chops, but she gets to show off a little depth to go along with Rachel’s earnest persona. Golding is a handsome man, hands down (it doesn’t matter what color his skin is) – women everywhere are already fawning over him. He’ll next star opposite Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively in this fall’s A Simple Favor. His star is bright and will become brighter very soon. And Chan, who some may know from the AMC series Humans, is drop dead gorgeous, complete with acting depth. But let’s not forget Michelle Yeoh – she’s the scene-stealer. As Eleanor, her tough-as-nails Eleanor is caring and overprotective. She, like many mothers I know, misplaces what she believes is best for Nick is congruent with what Nick wants for himself. And since Nick bites his tongue out of respect for his mother, a rift is created between he and Rachel that widens with each day.

The relationship Nick shares with his mother is another theme that is universally shared, and prevents Asians from getting campy.

When Kwan’s book was optioned there was a bidding war between Warner Bros. and Netflix. Netflix provided lucrative offer but they had one major drawback – Netflix doesn’t offer film distribution. Chu and Kwan were confident Asians could appeal to a broad audience, and their idealism led them to choose Warners. The opportunity to open Asians in theaters everywhere was too tempting, and because they made a fantastic film they may have helped opened the doors of diversity a bit more. In time Chu and Kwan may be remembered for being more than artists who made an entertaining film, they may be catalysts for something big for filmmakers and filmgoers of all colors.

Go see Crazy Rich Asians. It’s fun, beautiful, funny, romantic and genuine – a perfect offering to transition from the summer to autumn. More importantly, it’s a cultural event that will further pull back the curtain on all things Asian.

4 stars out of 5


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