In The Dark: Culture is its own character in Chu's fresh rom-com

In The Dark: Culture is its own character in Chu's fresh rom-com

The romantic comedy genre has been overdue for a makeover and in this fresh new take is just the ticket. Easily, it’s one of the most entertaining movies I’ve seen this summer as it carries a great storyline while allowing entry into a culture I knew virtually nothing about.

Think of a storyline as a branch, with elements of the story hung like ornaments from it. Then think of the brightest, most colorful ornaments and that is “Crazy Rich Asians,” from start to finish.

Rachel Chu (Constance Wu of “Fresh Off the Boat”) is an economic professor at NYU dating Nick Young (Henry Golding). The two are getting ever closer to the point that he asks her to travel home to Singapore with him for his cousin’s wedding.

Rachel, an American raised by a single mother, has no idea what she’s in for except for a few hints here and there that Nick comes from a wealthy family; as he describes it, he’s “comfortable.” Even the onboard suite he scores for their transatlantic flight he waves off as just having family connections. But there is just no hiding it when they arrive in Singapore and she meets his family and sees their palatial estate.

The most curious to meet her is Eleanor Young, Nick’s mother, played by Michelle Yeoh of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” fame. She’s a hard read with her stoic face and imperious mien, and she’s about to let her feelings be known about Nick’s girlfriend, but it’s pretty obvious Rachel might be out of her league.

Taken from Kevin Kwan’s book of the same name and directed by John M. Chu with an all-Asian cast, this has been a highly anticipated feature. No matter what the box office is in the states, this is poised to earn huge overseas money and spark a new interest in Asian product that doesn’t involve the ubiquitous martial arts. Not to mention to date this has been a most underserved market.

This is like a love letter to Singapore with highlights from its famous food markets, unbelievable architecture with a mix of old style colonial and modern skyscrapers and, of course, the people. Through Rachel’s ex college roommate Peik (Awkwafina) who has moved back home, she gets a lesson in the difference between nouveau riche like her family and old money like Nick’s family.

With Peik’s help and her wardrobe, Rachel takes on Eleanor, and with Nick running interference she hopes to win her over.  Wu and Golding (this is his first movie) have a delightful chemistry and it’s easy to see that they make a great couple. Even Nick’s Ah Ma or grandmother (played by veteran actress Lisa Lu) has taken to her and gives her blessing. This takes place in a scene that is rich with Asian tradition as the family sits together making dumplings - one of many great moments that reveal details of Asian culture.

The most important for the purposes of this movie are the differences between the American approach to family vs. the Asian. Eleanor cannot hide her disdain at American pursuit of passion at the expense of what she considers sacrifices for the happiness of one’s children. And, as it is revealed, she knows this from experience.

At its heart this is really a great romantic comedy that’s long overdue. And that’s just “Crazy.”