As the lights dimmed and “Crazy Rich Asians” opened with an upbeat, classically jazzy song sung in Mandarin, a big smile spread across my face. The smile persisted as bold, colorful text reminiscent of the early golden age of Hollywood filled the screen. Nearly 100 years after this classic era of film set a standard, this movie set out to do the same thing. The film was to open the door for Asian Americans in the mainstream of cinema. It was to be relatable to a multitude of people in a multitude of ways, all while glamorizing—and accurately portraying— Asian life and culture for one of the first times in movie history.
From the settings— beautiful, food— delectable, music— almost entirely in Chinese, including some songs from artists like Coldplay covered beautifully in Mandarin— “Crazy Rich Asians” is unrelentingly, unabashedly Asian.
It is a gorgeous film in nearly every capacity. The cinematography, the stunning set design, the costuming, the people— seriously, they are all beautiful— its execution is done well. This is especially prominent thematically, as the movie explores and comments on the nuance and gray area many first-generation Asians find themselves in when it comes to expectations from family and culture. It does all of this within the confines of a light-hearted love story about an average psychology professor meeting her boyfriend’s unfathomably rich family in Singapore.
This is the most cathartic movie I have seen in a while. I teared up several times, and it was not until later that I realized why the climactic moments had affected me so greatly:
The moments were honest.
The story elements and themes were crafted by people of Asian descent and are therefore based on experience. Albeit posed in a light, comedic tone from an uberrich perspective, they were still real. And that reality was felt. Felt by me— a white dude who lacks a true understanding of Asian culture. I loved it, and I think you will too.
I am of the very simple thought that if we all spoke to each other and really, really listened, there is not a lot we cannot do. That is why this movie is vital. “Crazy Rich Asians” is fun and well made, guaranteeing you an enjoyable story and a worthy movie-going experience. The best and most important thing it does, though, is speak.