Images courtesy of IMDB, Giphy, Tumblr, Gfycat…yeah, get ready for the gifs.
For those of us still missing the golden age of the romantic comedy, is Jon Chu’s Crazy Rich Asians the hopeful return of the genre that we’ve been waiting for?
Spoiler alert: I very well think it could be. We’ve had some decent rom-coms the last few years. 27 Dresses? Not gonna lie, it’s pretty cute. The Proposal anyone? But if I’m going to be honest, even these don’t come close to those classics we always go back to. I’m talking Nora Ephron status rom-coms. You know, the ones like the near perfect You’ve Got Mail that Mindy Kaling’s probably got on repeat at her home.
Where have those rom-coms been the past decade?
The fact is, rom-coms don’t sell at the box office. Not like superhero-charged blockbusters or franchise revivals that we go to see at midnight, and then see again…and again.
But Crazy Rich Asians may be the game changer to revive the genre we love.
So why give Crazy Rich Asians so much attention? For one thing, it’s Hollywood’s most successful rom-com in almost a decade. It’s the first designated romantic comedy or chick flick to top the weekend box office this year. And not just for one week, but a consecutive 3 weeks. Plus, over Labor Day weekend, Crazy Rich Asians came in strong, “earning an estimated $28 million to boast the best gross for the long holiday weekend in more than a decade and the third best of all time.” Dolla-dolla bills, y’all.
Even weeks later, people are still talking about it. James Corden parodied it earlier this week right around the time when we heard that CRA‘s breakout star, Henry Golding, is starring in, yep, an upcoming romantic comedy with Emilia Clarke. Bring on the rom-coms.
When was the last time a rom-com got this kind of attention, and good attention at that?
CRA has more than the charm of past rom-coms going for it, though. It’s the first U.S. box office movie with an all-Asian cast since The Joy Luck Club was released 25 years ago. In an industry that is crying for more diversity, CRA did something we don’t see enough of and was praised for it. This may be the film that opens more doors for Asian-American actors that Joy Luck Club just couldn’t do.
But beyond the social commentary, CRA is just an enjoyable film. We travel with Rachel Chu (played by Constance Wu) with her boyfriend, Nick Young (Golding’s character), to Singapore for a the wedding of one of his closest friends. While there, Rachel meets Nick’s family, who also happen to be rich. Insanely rich. Crazy, over-the-top, insanely rich.
It’s a love story, of course, but with several other facets that make it a movie for everyone. It’s a film for all of us just trying to learn what we’re worth, mixed with a dash of culture shock and a pinch of a few outrageous parties.
Is CRA Even a True Rom-Com?
I was talking about the film with another romantic comedy devotee, and she brought up the question: is Crazy Rich Asians even a rom-com? I mean, we don’t have a “meet cute” scene; Rachel and Nick are already a couple when they fly off to Singapore. And while we follow their progression as a couple, the story doesn’t really focus on them the way it does Rachel’s character or even Rachel’s relationship with Nick’s savage mother, Eleanor (played by Michelle Yeoh).
However, looking more at the movie, I would say that it claims its place in the genre by heralding back to rom-coms of old. Like any good filmmaker, director Jon Chu draws on classic motifs and elements from the masterpieces of the past, adding his own flavor to the genre’s conversion.
He uses key ingredients that we’ll find in nearly all our favorite rom-coms, including:
The catchy, upbeat intro song…
The funny best friend…
The soft cover of one of your favorite love songs…
The big event where characters get to don tuxes and silk dresses…
The trying on of several mediocre outfits before said event so friends can horribly shame the main character…
Even the let’s lie on the bed and talk about my feelings scene…
Oh yeah, and a wedding. Classic.
So is Crazy Rich Asians the hopeful return of the rom-com? Is it the chick flick to bring back chick flicks out of obscurity and into the spotlight again?
Boy I hope so. Rom-coms have so more to say than, “boy meets girl” and, “they lived happily ever after.” When done well, romantic comedies inspire empathy and compassion. They make us believe in the redemptive power of love and of living truthfully to yourself and towards others. I’d argue that those are all things the world could use a whole lot of right now.
One thing’s for sure. Rom-coms are going to the mattresses. And they’re finally ready to pack a punch.