August 16, 2018

There’s a scene in Crazy Rich Asians in which Rachel Chu, the lead character played by Constance Wu, is in a game of poker. Her hand is much weaker than her opponent’s—he’s got two pairs—but she fearlessly bluffs and puts in all her chips. He folds, only to be crushed when she reveals her cards. As Rachel, a professor of economics and game theory at New York University, tells her students, “The key is playing to win, instead of trying not to lose.”

To many in Hollywood, Crazy Rich Asians might look like a risky bet. It’s the first modern story with an all-Asian cast and an Asian-American lead in 25 years; the last, The Joy Luck Club, was in 1993. It’s an earnest romantic comedy in a sea of action and superhero films. It features two leads who are new to movies: Wu, an actor most recognizable for her role on the ABC series Fresh Off the Boat, and Henry Golding, a virtual unknown who last worked as a travel host for the BBC. And it makes use of a multilingual script that flips seamlessly from English to Cantonese to Mandarin and back again.

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