Love, Actually

Having given up Nick but maintained her “dignity,” as Peik Lin respectfully states, Rachel boards a plane back to America with her mother. And naturally that leaves us with the most rom-com ending of all: a plane chase. Nick runs to Rachel’s side, comedically weaving through resentful passengers all the way, to plead with her to stay. She remains resolute in her decision until he whips out a ring —not the first one he proposed with, but his mother’s emerald ring. Overjoyed at receiving Eleanor’s tacit approval, Rachel immediately accepts, leaving the audience to piece together Eleanor’s unspoken intention.

It’s an astonishingly subtle end to a flashy film — though of course, we get a flashier party scene to cap it all off. And it almost feels unnecessary. It all comes down to the power of the mahjong game, where Rachel comes to terms with her identity as an Asian-American, and proves that she doesn’t need someone else’s approval to know her worth. The film could have ended right there and left the same impact (again, Nick is pretty but peripheral), but Crazy Rich Asians is still a rom-com, and we need to have our rom-com ending. And there’s no denying the satisfaction that comes when Rachel wears that emerald ring.

If you noticed that I managed to make it through the entire spoiler review without touching on a prime subplot of the film, it’s for good reason: Astrid (Gemma Chan) and Michael’s (Pierre Png) troubled marriage was the weakest part of Crazy Rich Asians. It’s a storyline that could have been excised from the film completely, and probably should have — if not for the promise of a sequel and Gemma Chan’s boundless charisma. Png, on the other hand, was another story — there’s a reason he was introduced abs-first. In a cast chock full of talent and standout performances, Png’s wooden performance did nothing to help a subplot that had no relation to the rest of the film. I couldn’t help but think that if it had been tweaked a little, Astrid could have become an intriguing parallel to Rachel’s story of self-actualization, but it would have padded an already lengthy run time. It really is a storyline best saved for a sequel.

So what of the future? Crazy Rich Asians handily sets itself up for a sequel (and there are two more entries in Kwan’s series). But as it is now, Crazy Rich Asians offers a vibrant, wildly entertaining, and achingly sincere portrait of a rarely represented culture. As for that weighty proverb, Crazy Rich Asians doesn’t necessarily “move the world.” But it does nudge it in the right direction.

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