Over 16 years ago, MyBigFatGreekWedding unexpectedly became the highest grossing romantic comedy of all time with its focus on culture and love. That chord was struck once again in the summer of 2018 with CrazyRichAsians. Based on the bestseller by Kevin Kwan and directed by Jon M. Chu, Asians received rave reviews and audiences turned out to the tune of a $174 million domestic haul.
The film made a little history along the way by becoming the first major Hollywood studio production to feature a predominantly Asian-American cast since 1993’s TheJoyLuckClub. This allowed for star making roles for leads Henry Golding and Constance Wu, as well as actress/rapper Awkwafina. For veteran Michelle Yeoh, best known to stateside moviegoers for TomorrowNeverDies and CrouchingTiger, HiddenDragon, her potential mother-in-law role garnered awards chatter.
Asians certainly achieved its status as the summer’s giant sleeper and is the largest earning rom com since 2005’s Hitch. It also changed the faces we normally see in the genre (like GreekWedding) and that earns it a place atop the year’s major cinematic stories.
CrazyRichAsians is a vibrant and colorful romantic comedy that’s fairly conventional in its genre trappings at times. However, it isn’t so traditional with the world it explores or with the faces populating the love story. It serves as a lovely advertisement for visiting Singapore – albeit with some locales that might require deep pockets to see. This works best by having the most important ingredient in that there’s legit chemistry between the two leads.
That would be Rachel Chu (Constance Wu), an economics professor in New York City and her boyfriend Nick Young (Henry Golding). They seem to be living a nice life in the Big Apple when she accepts his invitation to accompany him to Singapore for a wedding. Rachel figures out soon that his family isn’t just wealthy, but they’re basically the Kennedy’s of their country. Or in some ways they’re the Kardashian’s, with plenty of Young’s living that kind of excessively lavish lifestyle.
This isn’t necessarily a Cinderella trajectory Rachel finds herself on. Nick’s mother Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh) quickly decides she isn’t good enough for her beloved son. And there’s plenty of other women around who are jealous of her nabbing the nation’s hottest bachelor, who’s expected to move back home and take over the family business.
Based on a bestseller from Kevin Kwan and directed with energy by Jon M. Chu, Asians shows us a culture rarely seen in an American produced studio effort. In that way, it’s fair to make comparisons with 2002’s unexpected smash hit MyBigFatGreekWedding. This also takes some time to show the culinary delights of the land, as well as gorgeous visual ones.
Similar to plenty of complicated love stories, there are elements of classism at the forefront. One subplot involves a cousin (Gemma Chan), a kindly socialite who’s “married under” what her elders anticipated. Her marriage serves as a preview for the problems that may lie ahead for Rachel and Nick.
CrazyRichAsians gets a lot of mileage out of its far off destination. Wu and Golding make it gel. I expect both to get their own mileage career wise from their solid performances here. Yeoh, who stateside audiences know best for 007 flick TomorrowNeverDies and CrouchingTiger, HiddenDragon) is strong in a tricky part. She’s a bit of a villain with genuine intentions. The screenplay and her performance make it work. Rapper Awkwafina gets the zany best friend role to Rachel and does have some amusing moments.
The dazzling sights of Singapore are joyous to behold, but this is worth watching for the reason many in this genre are. I liked Rachel and Nick a lot and wanted to see them make it through the time-tested rom com challenges that come their way.
Opening next week, Crazy Rich Asians has the potential to be a late summer sleeper hit. Based on a bestseller by Kevin Kwan, the romantic comedy is said to be a crowd pleaser. Critics have taken notice. The film stands at 100% currently on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s a far cry from previous directorial efforts from Jon M. Chu, who made G.I. Joe: Retaliation and Jem and the Holograms.
If this picture manages to be a success, could Oscar voters take notice of the first Asian-American led studio effort in a quarter century (since The Joy Luck Club)? That will depend on competition. The only race I see where this could possibly be included is Best Adapted Screenplay.
Last year, the competition in that particular race was lighter than usual. That may not be the case this year with potential contenders like BlacKkKlansman, If Beale Street Could Talk, Widows, First Man, A Star is Born, Beautiful Boy, and Boy, Erased. However, if some of those titles don’t match expectations (which is often the case), Crazy Rich Asians could make a play.
Blogger’s Note II (08/14/18): My estimate is rising once again and I’m going with $22.5 million for the three-day and $33.4 million for the five-day.
Blogger’s Note (08/10/18): I am ramping up my estimate for this based on buzz from $14.2M to $19.4M for the traditional weekend and high 20s for the five-day.
In what could turn out to be some smart counter programming, romantic comedy CrazyRichAsians opens next Wednesday. The Warner Bros release is, rather shockingly, the first stateside studio effort in a quarter century (1993’s TheJoyLuckClub) to feature a predominately Asian-American cast. It’s based on a 2013 bestseller by Kevin Kwan. The cast includes Henry Golding, Constance Wu, Gemma Chan, Lisa Lu, Nico Santos, Ken Jeong, and Michelle Yeoh. Jon M. Chu, who made JustinBieber: NeverSayNever and G.I. Joe: Retaliation, directs.
The film seems to be garnering some positive buzz and it could bring out a female audience, as well as a community clearly underrepresented at multiplexes. Even with that breakout potential, the Wednesday opening probably means it’ll debut behind Mile22 with Mark Wahlberg.
I will estimate a traditional weekend opening in the low teens and that could mean a gross close to $20 million for the five-day total.
CrazyRichAsians opening weekend prediction: $22.5 million (Friday to Sunday), $33.4 million (Wednesday to Sunday)