Based on the best-selling novel by Kevin Kwan, the big screen adaptation of Crazy Rich Asians surprised numerous box office prognosticators this summer, holding the number one spot for three weekends in a row and (so far) grossing over $150 million at the U.S. box office. This is cause for celebration: it remains the first "mainstream" film to feature a primarily Asian-cast since The Joy Luck Club 25 years prior.
Both light on its feet and heartbreakingly serious—the need for acceptance is a constant theme throughout—the film is a smooth, charming watch that, with comic relief from co-stars Awkwafina and Ken Jeong, is intensely enjoyable. There are twists too: Rachel Chu (Constance Wu), the American-raised girlfriend of the crazy rich boyfriend Nick Young (Henry Golding), keeps seeking the approval of Nick's mother Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh) and his adorable grandmother (Lisa Lu). That it doesn't come as easily as we might expect feels about right, but then, the film never gives us the approval she (and we as an audience) desire. For all of its rom-com codifiers, the plot has a few swerves up its sleeve.
All throughout the glitz and glamour, however, Chu works overtime to keep the story's main beats in focus.
If you're going to shoot a film about the insanely wealthy, your production design has better be sparkingly top notch, and director Jon M. Chu makes sure that his settings are as extravagant as possible. No bachelor party is too big—the one in the film takes a helicopter to get to, and even then...—and no wedding reception or engagement party, complete with a 360-degree barrage of fireworks, too unbelievable.
All throughout the glitz and glamour, however, Chu works overtime to keep the story's main beats in focus. A cross-cutting sequence in which Nick speaks with his good friend about potentially proposing to Rachel comes with frighteningly real domestic-life implications as Rachel, attending a bachelorette party, receives horrifying threats meant to deter her from continuing to date Nick. And an encounter between Rachel and Eleanor on a staircase is also an excellent example of how to shift a scene's tone in a moment's notice; what begins as relatably sincere quickly turns into something more sinister, and Chu allows each moment to breathe.
Chu, a veteran filmmaker whose features also include Step Up 2 and Step Up 3, GI Joe: Retaliation, Jem and the Holograms, Now You See Me 2, and a series of pop star documentaries, got his start in film school at USC School of Cinematic Arts. Below we're featuring some of his early work made at the school as well as a series of spec commercials the filmmaker made publicly available on his personal Youtube channel.
Have you seen Crazy Rich Asians yet? What did you think of it? Let us known in the comments below.