behave yourself! (george beck, 1951)
revisiting performance

crazy rich asians (john m. chu, 2018)

When it comes to truth in advertising, Crazy Rich Asians hits two out of three. It is about Asians, and it is about being rich. But calling the movie and its characters "crazy" is a stretch. The movie takes a fairly standard rom-com approach, but it never attempts to reach out to the screwball genre.

It's obvious why Crazy Rich Asians is important. It's a crowd-pleasing film for the whole family, with a largely East Asian/Asian-American cast. It's a box office hit ... a sequel has already been given the green light. At a time when it still seems impossible to get studios to back movies with diverse backgrounds, Crazy Rich Asians joins other recent hits, most notably the enormously successful Black Panther, in demonstrating how backwards those studios are, not just culturally but on the bottom line. On a basic level, Crazy Rich Asians is a worthwhile movie simply because it exists. That it is also enjoyable makes the experience even better.

But ... I've noted that it's not a very crazy film, and that it is a strong representation of a culture we don't see often enough in American movies. That leaves Rich ... and lord, do the people in this movie have riches. Crazy Rich Asians is like Downton Abbey without all of those troublesome servants. It would be unfair for me to claim that the movie ignores class distinctions ... in fact, those distinctions drive much of the plot. But the classes we see are fairly limited: old rich, new rich, and Constance Wu as the Cinderellaesque heroine, Rachel. It is telling that Rachel, the "lower class" character, is an economics professor at NYU. And when Rachel triumphs over the old school, as she inevitably must, it's a victory not for the downtrodden but for the professional class.

Crazy Rich Asians is a pleasure to watch ... the locations are gorgeous, the money porn is enticing, and the cast is uniformly excellent. (Shout out to the always great Michelle Yeoh, who gives real depth to her part as what passes for a villain, and to Gemma Chan from TV's Humans.) I liked it better before I thought about it, though.

And a bit of Gemma Chan in Humans, just because:

 

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