Crazy Rich Asians***
Dir: Jon M. Chu
*ing: Constance Wu, Michelle Yeoh, Henry Golding, Awkwafina, Ken Jeong, Gemma Chan, Nico Santos
Adapted from Kevin Kwan’s sprawling 500 page novel, Crazy Rich Asians has New Yorker Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) travelling to Singapore with her boyfriend, Nick Young (Henry Golding), to attend his best friend’s wedding. There she discovers that Nick comes from one of the country’s wealthiest families and “commoner” Rachel has her task cut out proving herself worthy of him in front of his friends and family, most notably his mother (the regal Michelle Yeoh). The only allies she has in the strange city are her old college roomie, Peik Lin (Awkwafina) and Nick’s gay cousin (Nico Santos).
The movie scores points for having an all-Asian cast and the box-office success of Crazy Rich Asians (and Black Panther earlier) proves that audiences are ready and hungry to embrace diversity. And it’s great to have somebody like Constance Wu (so terrific in TV sit-com, Fresh Off The Boat – why she hasn’t yet won an Emmy for it is beyond me) be given a bigger showcase for her talents. But it’s all rather predictable (particularly for those of us raised on Indian and Pakistani fare) and the movie hardly scratches beneath the surface either in terms of character or socio-economic setups and class warfare. Still, the movie breezes along happily and there are a couple of moments near the end where you might find yourself letting out a whoop of glee.
Cut to chase: Deserves kudos on the diversity front but it is rather predictable.
A Simple Favor***
Dir: Paul Feig
*ing: Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, Henry Golding, Jean Smart, Linda Cardellini
Stephanie (Anna Kendrick) is a fussy single mother, her only outlet a vlog that has just a few followers. But her life seems to take an exciting turn when she is suddenly befriended by the impossibly cool, alluring, and mysterious Emily (Blake Lively), whose son is in the same class at school as Stephanie’s. Emily is everything that Stephanie isn’t (or so Stephanie thinks) with a fabulous house, a terrific job, and a great-looking novelist for a husband. But is there more to Emily than meets the eye? And what secrets is Stephanie hiding herself?
Adapted from Darcey Bell’s novel by writer Jessica Sharzer and director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, Spy, The Heat) the movie works better as a sly suburban comedy with its inherent prickliness between stay-at-home moms and working mothers and both Kendrick and Lively making the sparks fly and smartly milking the scenes for some subversive humour. The movie is less successful, however, with its thriller aspects. For a while it seems it might enter the dark, dangerous territory of Gone, Girl but, unfortunately, its claws never go that deep and the mystery isn’t that hard to figure out. The plot also descends into silliness at times. However, A Simple Favor, provides a passable enough time, and Kendrick and Lively elevate the material.
Cut to chase: Part thriller and part suburban comedy but the former aspect doesn’t quite work.
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Rating system: *Not on your life * ½ If you really must waste your time ** Hardly worth the bother ** ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only *** Good enough for a look see *** ½ Recommended viewing **** Don’t miss it **** ½ Almost perfect ***** Perfection