A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Crazy Rich Asians is a book-based romcom that centers on Rachel Chu (Constance Wu), a smart, independent Chinese American economics professor who's in love with Nick Young (Henry Golding), who turns out to be from an insanely wealthy Singapore family. The world of materialism, obscene wealth, status, and expectation that Rachel encounters there is totally over the top: Money is literally thrown in the air. Expect to hear some strong language (including "s--t," "t-ts," and more) and see drinking during many party scenes; cocaine use is also briefly implied. Couples kiss, and sex is suggested but not shown; one actress is rumored to be a porn star, and men make snide comments about women's cosmetic surgery and physical appearance (including small breasts). That said, women aren't objectified overall; instead, the camera tends to linger on shirtless men. The very rare mainstream Hollywood release to feature an all-Asian cast, the film avoids Asian stereotypes -- but it does have a fairly stereotypical gay character. And the cattiness is off the charts, with some fairly shocking "mean girl" behavior. But it's refreshing to see a romcom heroine who doesn't need saving by a man (Rachel loves her life, and she and Nick have a healthy, respectful relationship), and the film has strong messages about loving yourself, staying in control, and addressing problems with dignity and class.
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What's the story?
Based on Kevin Kwan's best-selling novel, CRAZY RICH ASIANS is the story of Chinese American economics professor Rachel Chu (Constance Wu), who travels to Singapore to attend a wedding with her boyfriend, Nick Young (Henry Golding). Rachel will be meeting Nick's family for the first time, and it turns out she's woefully unprepared. She has no idea that not only are the Youngs wealthy, but they're a prestigious "old money" family, and Nick is essentially the prince of Singapore. Rachel has to quickly adapt to Chinese culture, jealous ex-girlfriends, and Nick's controlling mother (Michelle Yeoh), who believes her son must marry a woman with stature. If Rachel can't handle things, she risks losing the love of her life.
Is it any good?
This movie will make you fall in love with romantic comedies again. It's not so much that Crazy Rich Asians' storyline is original as it is well done; it rarely goes for the cliché. Romcoms have a tendency to portray their heroines as somewhat bumbling, not quite having their act together. But that's not Rachel Chu: She's capable, clever, and in control. She may be temporarily thrown off by the unfriendlies in Nick's life, but she never loses her footing. She's a well-drawn, down-to-earth character who isn't so much relatable as aspirational, and Wu plays her to a tee. The other women in the cast are great, too. Yeoh adds depth to the icy mother who sees Rachel as a threat to her family. And as Nick's glamorous cousin Astrid, Gemma Chan gives a meaty performance as her character deals with the complexities of a marriage in which the wife is rich and the husband is not in a traditional male-driven society. But it's Awkwafina who runs away with the show, inspiring peals of laughter as Rachel's college buddy, Goh Peik Lin, who speaks with a Miley Cyrus-type cadence, attitude, and delivery. Every scene with her in it is 10 times funnier, and when Ken Jeong is added to the mix as her father, the duo make a comic combination that leaps off the screen.
It's impossible not to notice the movie's lingering shots of men's bare chests, but this reverse objectification is subversively intentional: Asian men are rarely portrayed as sexy or appealing in the media, and the drooling cinematography is intended to challenge the idea that Asian men are undesirable. And amid all the humor and attempts to overthrow the anti-Asian bias in Hollywood movies, director Jon M. Chu also delivers a lovely love story. One scene in particular: During a preposterously over-the-top wedding, the audience is brought to tears by a touching affirmation that, no matter the pain and pleasure that money brings, it’s still love that makes the world go round. Crazy Rich Asians will end up on the Best Romantic Comedies in History list because it's actually not about getting the guy; Rachel proves that the greatest love of all is loving yourself (and your mama!).
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the way American and Chinese cultures are portrayed in Crazy Rich Asians. American culture is presented as prioritizing the pursuit of career, ambition, and happiness, while Chinese culture is shown emphasizing family first, even if that means individual sacrifice. What are the pros and cons of each philosophy?
Three characters -- Rachel, Astrid, and Eleanor -- demonstrate self-control. What are the similarities in their decision-making? What are the differences?
Crazy Rich Asians is the first Hollywood studio feature set entirely in the present with an all-Asian/Asian American cast. Why is that notable? Why does representation matter in movies, TV, and books?
How do the characters defy stereotypes, both in terms of ethnicity and gender? What makes Rachel a positive female character? Why is it important for kids to see a wide range of behavior from both genders in the media they consume?
The film shows that an abundance of wealth can also bring an abundance of other things, including complications. How does that tie into the old saying "money can't buy happiness"?
- In theaters: August 15, 2018
- Cast: Constance Wu, Michelle Yeoh, Henry Golding, Awkwafina
- Director: Jon M. Chu
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Book Characters, Great Girl Role Models
- Character Strengths: Self-control
- Run time: 121 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some suggestive content and language
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Seal
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