A new perception on modern marriage

Crazy Rich Asians (dir. John M Chu, cert. 12A) is an unusual romcom as the enamoured couple have already been together a year in New York when Nick Young (Henry Golding) asks Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) if she wants a break somewhere east. He means further east than Queens.

Nick is to be best man for his friend Colin (Chris Wang) in Singapore, and taking Rachel to meet his family there sounds like a plan. When they turn left on the plane it’s not just to first but to a private suite, and Nick says it’s a perk, through contacts his family has with the airline.

It’s only when Rachel goes to visit her friend Peik Lin Goh (Awkwafina) that she finds out that Nick is not just rich, but mega rich. The Young family are “old money” pre-Revolution Chinese, and own much of Singapore, and Nick’s mother Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh) expects Nick to take over running the business.

His brothers have their own interests that make them unsuitable, and his sister Astrid (Gemma Chan) has her own fashion career and marital problems to boot. So the fact that Rachel has her own career as an economics professor, and will not be content to be simply a domestic hostess for a billionaire, indicates to Eleanor that she is not the right woman for Nick.

Grandmother Ah Ma (Lisa Lu) seems a potential ally for Rachel, when others are seeing her unfairly and nastily as a gold-digger. It’s a comedy character, gay fashion director Oliver T’Sien (Nico Santos), who often provides sympathy and sense.

A nod to the subway scene in Crocodile Dundee suggests a traditional romcom ending, but the plot does raise questions about disparity of wealth. No one is poor, though Rachel’s humble background becomes an issue.

The news about Nick’s girlfriend first filters through to his mother while she’s leading a Bible study. The scene derives from a poem written at college by Kevin Kwan, and he eventually turned it into a chapter in his 2013 novel that’s adapted here.

Himself of fairly wealthy Singaporean Methodist stock, Kwan moved to the USA when he was 11. He remembered the study group as “an excuse to gossip and show off new jewellery”.

There’s a little joke about Methodist frugality in the cost of Colin’s wedding (otherwise it would have cost millions more), but it’s still lavish. His bride (Sonoya Mizuno) walks down not an aisle but a river, but there’s no real discussion of what would Jesus do for super-rich Christians, and we don’t get a word of the marriage service.

The Singapore locations tease with shots of the Marina Bay Sands hotel, and the finale takes us to its astonishing rooftop gardens and pool – basic rooms a snip at £300 a night. There are few really funny moments, but the side issues of money, culture clash and a woman’s place in a modern marriage do elevate the story beyond simple romcom.

 

King of Thieves (dir. James Marsh, cert. 15) has been criticised as glamourising crime, but it ends up as a demonstration that there’s no honour among thieves. Hatton Garden – The Heist (2016) and The Hatton Garden Job (2017) have already covered the ground but, for this version of the story of the elderly team who broke into safe deposit vaults over Easter 2015, they waited for a better cast.

It opens with Michael Caine as “mastermind” Brian Reader reminiscing with his wife Lynne (Francesca Annis) about the old times, and crime obviously paid as they recall meals at posh London restaurants Wiltons and La Gavroche. Lynne dies, leaving Brian bereft of purpose.

At the wake, others are “talking shop” about crime committed and time done. Brian has promised Lynne not to get involved again – he was 69 – but he’s intrigued when Basil (Charlie Cox) says he can get into the building housing the deposit boxes.

Getting in is one thing, but disabling alarms, getting down a lift shaft, and drilling through the vault walls needs a team. Credit goes to casting director Nina Gold for the team she put together – Ray Winstone as Danny Jones, Jim Broadbent as Terry Perkins, Paul Whitehouse as Carl Wood, Michael Gambon as fence Billy “the Fish” Lincoln, and Tom Courtenay as John Kenny Collins, the lookout man with a propensity to fall asleep.

Getting to the boxes works, but things fall apart, including trust, when it comes to divvying up the proceeds, especially as two of the gang had walked away from the job. Some of the mistakes made are absurd, not least failing to take account of the prevalence of CCTV.

As the net closes in, Reader jokes that he can cope with prison life, it’s the afterlife that concerns him. As they change out of prison clothes for their trial, you’d think the message would be that crime doesn’t pay, but most of the loot is still missing.

 

Steve Parish