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But How Gay is ‘Crazy Rich Asians’?

In “But How Gay Is It?”, we seek to answer the biggest questions you have about a new movie release in theaters now — including, most crucially, the titular question. Does the movie have any queer characters? Are there stories involving same-sex lovers? Which gay icons star in the film? We’re bringing you all that and more.

What is Crazy Rich Asians? In many ways the culmination of a multi-year arc in Hollywood, Crazy Rich Asians is the first major Hollywood film since The Joy Luck Club to have an entirely Asian main cast. It’s an adaptation of Kevin Kwan’s bestselling novel, and follows an NYU economics professor, Rachel Chu, as she finds herself thrust into a world very different than her own: her absurdly wealthy boyfriend Nick’s family home in Singapore.

The wealth comes as a shock for the modest Rachel — “We’re economy people,” she says through her confusion that she and Nick are put in a private first-class suite — but she doesn’t have much time to recover. Because Nick’s family is judgmental as hell, no one more so than mother Eleanor Young. The film is like watching a game of social chess as a romcom: Rachel has to figure out how to outplay Nick’s family and win her king.

Who’s in it? Constance Wu plays Rachel, and Hollywood should immediately cast her in 10 more romcoms. She is the perfect heroine, just plucky and determined enough without being grating. While Wu is the standout on Fresh Off the Boat, in Crazy Rich Asians she demonstrates a whole new set of skills.

She leads a cast that can be best described as “absurdly beautiful.” Seriously, I kept sighing whenever someone new would enter a scene — male or female! And they’re all great! There’s Henry Golding as Nick, pairing his devastatingly sexy smile with a great heart. There’s Gemma Chan, so ably balancing the fabulous exterior and fragile interior of Nick’s sister Astrid. There’s Pierre Png as Astrid’s husband Michael, introduced to us fresh out of the shower. It is a glorious parade of beauty.

Two supporting actresses steal the show, though. First, there’s Michelle Yeoh as Eleanor. This is easily one of the most subtle, precise performances I’ve ever seen. Nothing is big or broad about Eleanor, even though she’s effectively our villain. She communicates her displeasure through small shifts of her neck, or darts of the eyes. She imbues every line delivery with so many different emotions, it’s arguably more important to listen to the way she says things versus what she’s saying.

Then, on the very opposite end of the spectrum, is Awkwafina as Goh Peik Lin, Rachel’s Singapore-based best friend. She is loud, brash, and over the top — and perfect. The performance has been compared to Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids and Tiffany Haddish in Girls Trip, and for good reason. She gets some of the biggest laughs in the film just through saying “FedEx.” It’s brilliant work.

Why should I see it? Easy: It’s fantastic. I could also make an argument for supporting movies with non-white leads so that Hollywood understands they need to make more, and that’s certainly true. But this isn’t the equivalent of being asked to eat your vegetables. This is a delicious, fluffy, perfectly iced cake, and you’ll be dying to go back for seconds.

But how gay is it? Actually kinda gay! The general vibe of fabulous fashions and hot shirtless men is certainly gay male-appealing, and there’s also Nico Santos as the bitchy-but-generous Oliver, who quickly becomes Rachel’s closest ally in the Young family. He also gets some of the best one-liners, including a fashion sequence where he gets off some great, Michael Kors-esque quips.

There were two other books; will there be sequels? Hopefully! The only way to make sure of that is to see the movie. Multiple times, if you can! Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

Crazy Rich Asians is in theaters now.


Kevin O'Keeffe

Kevin O'Keeffe is a writer and 'RuPaul's Drag Race' herstorian. He covers film and TV for INTO, and writes the movie review column "But How Gay Is It?" every Friday.

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