I want credit for enduring Crazy Rich Asians this afternoon. I paid, I saw, I suffocated. But it took 45 or 50 minutes before the oxygen ran out. Asians actually begins in a reasonably sharp and springy fashion. Peter Chiarelli and Adele Lim‘s clever dialogue, Vanja Cernjul‘s handsome lensing, Myron Kerstein‘s fleet editing, etc. I was saying to myself “hmmm…this has a good vibe.”
It’s a satire of the aggressively shallow values of the highly insecure moneyed classes of southeast Asia, but the satire doesn’t cut very deep because the film shares these values and in fact adores them. Each and every shot is about showcasing obscenely flush, over-the-top flamboyance (clothes, homes, interior designs), and by the one-hour mark the spirit weakens and the nausea kicks in.
Henry Golding, Constance Wu in Crazy Rich Asians.
The story tries to have it both ways by having the fate of the two main characters, Constance Wu‘s Rachel Chu (the actress is 36 and no spring chicken) and Henry Golding‘s Nick Young, turn on matters of soul, substance and parental heritage. But director Jon M. Chu is more in love with grotesque abundance.
As Rachel is driven up the driveway of the mega-mansion owned by Nick’s parents, Brian Tyler‘s swelling score tells the audience that this is a huge, huge moment. It says “oh my God, look at this…Rachel is approaching heaven!” It’s like Jerry Goldsmith‘s score in Star Trek: The Motion Picture when William Shatner‘s Captain Kirk is first approaching the Enterprise and his eyes begin to moisten.
Eventually I began to telepathically beg for mercy. “Please, Jon…can we have a quiet, unfettered scene on a simple beach somewhere or maybe at an inexpensive roadside foodstand?” I whimpered. “Do you have to pour your maple-syrup wealth porn all over everything at every goddamn turn?” Answer: Yes, he does.
By the end I was hating Crazy Rich Asians as much as any of the more recent Fast and Furious sequels.