Rachel (Constance Wu: Fresh Off the Boat) is quite the catch. A game-theory professor in New York, she’s a funny, self-made beauty whose handsome boyfriend dotes on her.
She eagerly accepts boyfriend Nick’s (Henry Golding, in his screen debut) invitation to attend a friend’s wedding at his home in Singapore. She’s always wanted to travel to Asia, and she’s eager to meet his family. What Nick hasn’t told her, however, is that his is the richest family in Singapore.
In their world, confident Rachel is the gold-digging hussy, unfamiliar with the cultural norms and unable to defend herself. Nick’s beloved mother Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh: Star Trek: Discovery) is her most avid detractor.
Based on the first in a popular trilogy of books, Crazy Rich Asians is the first Hollywood film in a quarter-century with an Asian director and predominantly Asian cast. It’s up 0to its cultural significance as director Jon M. Chu (Now You See Me 2) has created a charming, beautifully shot and excellently acted film that makes you forget how tiresome romantic comedies can be.
Chu uses natural beauty and sights to create visual interest. Staging and framing create a postcard of Singapore so appealing that you’ll be looking up flights after the credits roll. He also keeps the story moving and juggles dozens of little plots to create a complex world filled with interesting characters. Jokes and sight gags add snap, and surprisingly emotional moments add depth.
At the center of the movie, Wu is our conduit into a fascinating culture. We learn the rules as she does, and it’s a joy to watch her figure out the game. Relatable and sweet, she is also feisty enough that — even under attack by gossips and mean girls — she never appears a victim. Wu keeps our heroine strong and good as everyone around her stoops to new lows.
Surrounding her is a brilliant cast. In his first film, Golding displays an easy charm that justifies Rachel’s attraction. The pair’s chemistry makes you root for them even as a whole nation seems set on tearing them apart. Awkwafina (Ocean’s Eight) is brilliant as Rachel’s college roommate and guide to the ins and outs of Singapore society.
Best of all is Yeoh, who makes her villainy human. Instead of a Wicked Mommy stereotype out of a Disney movie, Yeoh takes a subtler turn. Eleanor is a woman who, in spite of her privilege, has tasted racism and hardship. Her determination to put her family first is born from a good place, though her actions are often awful.
Crazy Rich Asians is a feel-good movie that will leave you wanting more. Good thing there are two more books to adapt to the screen.
Great Romantic Comedy • PG-13 • 120 mins.
~~~ New this Week ~~~
Separated from his caveman family, a boy is exposed to both the elements and beasts that want to eat him. But when he injures a young wolf, he can’t leave it to die. Instead, he drags it to a cave, nurses it back to health and attempts to befriend it.
This story of how humans and dog first joined paths promises a heartwarming look at the bond between the two species. There’ll be plenty of footage of cute wolves and some broad comedy as the boy and his dog learn to work together — but probably not much in the way of script.
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 96 mins.
James Silva (Mark Wahlberg) is a top CIA operative. He runs a unit that specializes in transporting highly valuable assets. So transporting Li Noor (Iko Uwais), a Chinese police officer who claims to have intel on a planned attack on America, seems like another day at the office.
Until they’re ambushed and must fight their way out.
This is the third movie in which Iko Uwais must beat his way through a highly trained crowd of killers. The first two movies, The Raid and The Raid 2, were beautifully choreographed and intricately shot action movies.
Don’t look for that kind of careful staging in a Wahlberg movie. You’re more likely to find lots of gunfire and male posturing.
Prospects: Flickering • R • 95 mins.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post
Caught with a girlfriend, Cameron Post (Chloë Grace Moretz) is sent by her parents to a Christian conversion camp for brainwashing. Knowing she will be welcomed home only as a “normal heterosexual,” she endures.
Though the therapy is draining, she makes friends. Can they help her accept who she is? Or will her captors’ taxing treatments take their toll?
Offering a glimpse at the damage such treatment can do to an already vulnerable population The Miseducation of Cameron Post is timely. Despite the efforts of some states to ban it, conversion therapy is still in wide use.
This may be the dramatic role that gives Moretz opportunity to stretch.
Prospects: Bright • R • 91 mins.