This looks like a picture-perfect adaptation of Kevin Kwan’s hit novel, from the casting to the couture.
Everyone compares “Crazy Rich Asians” to Jane Austen. While this might seem like a lazy or hyperbolic comparison, trust me when I say it is not. The story of college professor Rachel Chu, her fellow professor and boyfriend Nicholas Young, and his insanely wealthy and judgmental family harkens back to “Pride and Prejudice” in the best way possible — that is, if “Pride and Prejudice” was littered with enough descriptions of decadent meals and elegant couture gowns to make readers’ mouths water.
The news that “Crazy Rich Asians” was going to be made into a movie was exciting on multiple fronts. First, because it’s a hit book that is so packed with over-the-top imagery, zany characters, and witty dialogue that it feels like a film even as you are reading it. Second, because the entire cast is Asian. And for Asian actors, leading roles in modern romantic comedies like Crazy Rich Asians are not just rare, they are practically nonexistent.
Director Jon M. Chu doesn’t exactly have the most impressive string of credits to his name — we’re talking Step Up 2: The Streets, GI Joe: Retaliation, and Now You See Me 2. But based on the first trailer for Crazy Rich Asians, fans of Kevin Kwan’s book, which explores the absurd lifestyles of Asia’s ultra-privileged, won’t be disappointed in Chu’s treatment.
Watch it here:
The trailer introduces us to Rachel (played by Fresh Off the Boat‘s Constance Wu) and Nick (played by Henry Golding) in his feature film debut. Nick suggests that the two of them take off on a trip east for his childhood best friend’s wedding, and Rachel is wary — after all, despite dating Nick for over a year, she knows very little about his family.
Before she knows it, Nick has whisked her away to Singapore, where her college buddy Peik Lin (played in a scene-stealing turn by rapper Awkwafina) informs her that Nick’s family are the biggest real estate developers on the island. It’s a place where land is at a premium that doesn’t just make you rich, it makes you crazy rich. It also makes Nick one of the most eligible bachelors in Asia, with a target on his back for every socialite on the continent — it doesn’t hurt that he’s also gorgeous. As Rachel says to Nick, “You really should have told me you were like the Prince William of Asia.”
It’s not just greedy socialites that want Rachel to get away from Nick. Nick’s mother, Eleanor (the fantastically regal Michelle Yeoh) wants better for her son than the California-raised daughter of a Chinese immigrant turned powerhouse realtor. I cannot imagine better casting for the role of Eleanor than Yeoh, whose ice-cold delivery of lines like “I know this much — you’ll never be enough” will make anyone cheer wholeheartedly for Rachel to come out on top. Indeed, Rachel will have to summon all of her strength, not to mention her love for Nick, if she wants to survive the wedding of the season in one piece.
In the books, Rachel is a somewhat bland heroine, mostly because she is surrounded by so many more outrageous characters. She is a true Everygirl, which is both good and bad. You root for her and Nick to end up together, but the scenes involving other characters are actually more interesting. With the casting of the sharply witty Wu as Rachel, the film’s version of the character is already more fun to watch than the book version is to read — especially in her scenes with Awkwafina, perfectly cast as the bold and brash Peik Lin.
Meanwhile, Golding is essentially the Asian Mr. Darcy, from his posh English-educated accent down to his rock-solid abs. It is legitimately crazy how spot-on the casting of all of these characters is, especially when one considers how richly specific in detail Kwan’s writing is.
Based on this first trailer, my anticipation for Crazy Rich Asians has only grown, and I thought that was impossible! I cannot wait to get away from the summer heat by hiding in a nice air-conditioned movie theatre and escaping to the gorgeous estates of Singapore’s finest. Hopefully, the film will not only deliver on the trailer’s promise but do well enough at the box office to prove that Asian actors deserve to headline more movies.
Crazy Rich Asians arrives in the US on August 17th.