Crazy Rich Asians ★★½

So pretty much the highest rating I can imagine giving a conventional studio rom-com is 3.5 stars, and that hypothetical film is not one with a montage set to Madonna's "Material Girl" (regardless of the language). I recognise that CRAZY RICH ASIANS delivers a lot of the pleasures of the genre for rom-com fans, the male lead is charismatic enough, the scale is appropriately spectacular, and there are a couple of great supporting performances (although I don't know if Awkwafina is legitimately great or just playing herself and running away with scenes left right and center, but anyway). And there are moments of superficial beauty that I got swept away in, sure. But also any movie that concludes its major subplot with the message "don't be ashamed of choosing excessive materialism" is going to never be less than ideologically repulsive to me.

There is, of course, another dynamic, which is that not only am I not a rom-com fan, but I'm not Asian. Aaron Yap has written sharply on what this film has meant to him, to his mother, and to Asian representation in general, and I have zero interest in pissing on that. During much of this, I was thinking of a recent video art piece I saw involving Pacifica transsexuals, making very anodyne - to me - statements about how they belong to the culture as well. But of course those statements are far from anodyne in a cultural context. There's a meaning that can never land with me from a place of privilege. Conversely, of course, another Asian Kiwi friend I have was far less moved by what CRAZY RICH ASIANS represented, and Ryan Swen has written a very negative take from an Asian-American perspective.

All of which is to say that being a white guy writing about media not crafted with myself as the target audience is complicated, for the risk of being either dismissive or overly charitable (as, for instance, Miriam Bale has repeatedly noted in regards to her being one of only two black Americans at Cannes reviewing BLACKkKLANSMAN, and being infuriated at what she saw as white critics giving Spike a pass on a bad film). But I do feel safe in saying that, if you're not in the target market, this isn't the sort of film that transcends its audience. And if you are, you've probably already seen it, if the box office is any indication.