A few years ago, my former boyfriend’s (Asian) mother told me in no uncertain terms that I “will never be good enough for [their] family.”
That’s a direct quote.
I spent a lot of time crying about it, masochistically coping by watching Rom-Coms where toxic relationships between two characters bumbling about until they ultimately end up together in a “happy ever after,” when I realized something: these movies idealize codependence and otherwise people who should definitely not be in relationships, getting into relationships.
While Crazy Rich Asians was marketed as the only movie since Joy Luck Club in 1993 to have a predominantly Asian cast—as it very well should be recognized in its own right—the movie’s themes represented so much more than that.
Main character Rachel Chu’s (Constance Wu) character arc doesn’t rely on her growing from that typical Rom-Com character into a better woman. Instead, she remains emotionally mature, and we see her values tested and conscience exorcized when she faces tough decisions throughout the movie’s climax. She’s easily relatable while being simultaneously admirable; the type of friend we want and the type of person we strive to be when faced with similar situations.
While supporting characters, particularly when cast as Asian actors, have repeatedly been used in Hollywood movies as laughingstocks or as tokenism in the name of diversity, the supporting characters in “Crazy Rich Asians,” Peik Lin (Awkwafina) and her father Wye Mun (Ken Jeong), provide substantial comedy without excess vulgarity and use of stereotypes.
Speaking of stereotypes, the movie absolutely tackles them in the best cinematic way. The opening scene portrays matriarch Eleanor Young (Michelle Yeoh) effectively handling a seemingly common encounter with a hotel manager who turns her away based on her race.
That’s the beauty of Yeoh’s character: she’s a multidimensional character who never needs to explain herself. Yeoh brilliantly plays a confident—yet secretly damaged—individual with so much more to offer than a villainous role. She’s not just an obstacle for two lovebirds, she’s a calculating, respectable, doting mother to her family; fiercely protective of those she loves over even herself, without ever needing the presence of her husband to solidify it.
“Crazy Rich Asians” not only gave me a good laugh and a hearty, much-needed cry throughout the screening, it also gave me insight to a part of my own culture that was never truly explained to me. I looked back on everything my own Asian mother ever told me growing up, and I began to understand how much she loved me based on how differently she loved me from what I saw in mainstream media. I also realized that my former boyfriend’s mother, though she could have expressed it a little better, was only trying to love her son in the best way she could.
All in all, I find nothing to complain about with this movie—cinematically or thematically. Not only are the visuals and sceneries awe-inspiring and perfectly fits the over-the-top-rich theme the movie embraces, but it also showcases outstanding performances by a cast that embodies the grace and pride the theme calls for. All without idealizing toxic familial and romantic relationships and instead bestowing upon undeserving audiences a grand show of love, strength and culture.