Hollywood is finally realising films with female only casts or leads from varied ethnic backgrounds actually make money, who would have thought?
The latest example of this trend is a film starring Asian actors, with only one established cinematic star Michelle Yeoh. Wisely choosing a romantic comedy director Jon M. Chu has created a light enjoyable film from the literary source material of the same name by author Kevin Kwan.
Following a brief prologue, which ruins the surprise “reveal” later, we meet “Rachel Chu” (Constance Wu), a pretty and feisty University economics professor in New York. Chu is in love with handsome “Nick Young” (Henry Golding), a man with no visible means of financial support.
As the relationship moves into “meet the family” territory, Rachel is whisked off to Singapore to attend a wedding and meet both Nick’s mother “Eleanor” (Michelle Yeoh) and even more formidably “Ah Ma” (Lisa Lu), the matriarch of the family dynasty.
Supposedly not knowing who Nick Young really is, the game is up when allocated a first class suite on the flight, including a double bed and no overhead locker space restrictions.
Arriving in Singapore confirms Rachel’s suspicions, Nick is rich, like uber rich. As the most eligible bachelor in town and heir to the family fortune, there is much female competition, backstabbing and the like. That’s before she even meets the larger family…
We get to meet various characters, Nick’s best friend “Colin Khoo” “Chris Pang” and soon to be wife “Araminta” (Sonoya Mizuno). Rachel’s BFF “Peik Lin Goh” (Awkwafina) & “Oliver” (Nico Santos) who both add some great comic touches to the proceedings.
We also meet the wider dysfunctional family, most notably a strong female fashion designer “Astrid” (Gemma Chan) who we may see more of in the sequels. With a $230m take on a $30m budget, you can bet your next Rolls Royce Phantom, there will be more films.
The film takes the usual deviations, bringing people together, pushing them apart and so forth. Largely this is formulaic stuff but done with some panache and of course off the scale ostentatious wealth dripping from every frame. Excess is everywhere and on occasion plays like a “make your dreams come true in Singapore” travelogue. The Singaporean authorities presumably falling over themselves to help the production.
Think of the film like a guilty takeaway meal, you know you should not enjoy it, you will feel full and yet remember nothing afterwards but you enjoyed it at the time.
Light as a souffle, with more practical plot holes than a leaky sieve and arguably for all it’s inclusiveness both main characters are “safe” i.e. will not offend anyone, especially Nick who is just too good to be true.
The film also reinforces some Asian stereotypes which the film presumably intends to break down but if this provides opportunities for people from more diverse backgrounds to tell their stories, this is real positive change.
Fun, forgettable but ultimately enjoyable and arguably the rom-com the doctor ordered in these less optimistic times.
Unrealistic of course but if your month end family financial budgeting is hard, this is pure cinematic escapism for the 2018/9’s