Constance-Wu

As far as romantic comedies go in the 21st century, the formula is starting to wear a bit thin.

Man meets woman, they fall in love, they hit a snag, there’s some grand controversy to liven up the third act, they get back together, fireworks (either the ones that blow up, or the Katy Perry ones).

But, don’t tell that to the genre’s electrifying new entry, Crazy Rich Asians.

Jon M. Chu’s newest film roars into theaters as a dual-threat. For starters, the film is a spectacular imagining of the rom-com, complete with lavish set design, affectionate leads in Constance Wu and Henry Golding, a dynamite comedic turn from Awkwafina, Oscar-worthy work from Gemma Chan and Michelle Yeoh and borderline-auteur direction from Chu.

It’s also the first American contemporary studio release to feature an all-Asian cast since 1993’s The Joy Luck Club.

It’s been far, far too long for audiences to see Asian representation of this magnitude on the big screen, just as it’s been far, far too long for audiences to be treated to a sophisticated, mature romance spliced together with razor-sharp comedy.

In more than one way, the film’s accomplishments are landmark, for both its substance and its style. The genre just got a shot of adrenaline and a new modern bar to reach, just as studios just got put on blast to incorporate more diverse casts and storylines into staple genre work.

Wu and Golding’s romance feels like something right out of the golden era of Hollywood, as two lovebirds must navigate tradition as the latter’s affluent Singapore-based family begins to weigh on their relationship. It’s a fresh perspective on family dynamics made possible by a diverse view, which makes you wonder just how much we’re all missing out on by not giving a myriad of different cultures more time in the sun with our art.

The cool part is, Chu’s film doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel. His filmmaking bulks up the already-promising source material and ensemble, and creates something luminous. One scene in particular, a stretch between a terse limo ride and a storybook wedding, mixes together Chu’s commanding eye, and the awe-inspiring production design.

In one moment, he holds the camera just long enough for cutting devastation, and in another, he bobs and weaves through the build-up to a gorgeous, dreamlike vista of a walk down the aisle. It’s hard for movies to make you feel so many emotions in such a small block of time, but Chu does it, and does it with gusto.

Films like Crazy Rich Asians don’t come around a lot, but for goodness’ sake, let’s see more of them. Here, we don’t have to go to Paris or New York to fall in love. We can look with longing eyes as the Singapore skyline, beaming in our seats as hearts takes full form. That’s what great a rom-com, and great representation, can do.

It can show us new ways to fall in love, and open that invitation for everyone who wants a part of that inescapable feeling you get with a good romance at the movies.