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By Britton Perelman · September 23, 2018
This must-see rom-com of the summer is a breath of fresh air. Crazy Rich Asians, an adaptation of the best-selling novel, is fun, over-the-top, and original. It’s the kind of rom-com that just might set off a resurgence of the genre itself.
Crazy Rich Asians also strays from the typical rom-com format in many ways, making it unique for a genre that grew tired and oversaturated. Here are six things about writing rom-coms that can be learned from what is one of the next big hit movies.
When the audience is dropped into the world of Crazy Rich Asians, Rachel and Nick are already dating. In fact, they’re over a year into their relationship. We don’t get to see them meet, we don’t get to see them fall in love, we don’t get to see the “honeymoon period” of their relationship — that’s all already happened.
So often rom-coms rely on the “meet-cute” to get things started. Boy meets girl or girl meets boy and that’s when everything begins. What Crazy Rich Asians embraces, and your rom-com should too, is that sometimes the most interesting parts of a relationship are well into the relationship itself. Complications occur down the line, not at the very beginning.
Stray from the mold and forgo the meet-cute in favor of something a bit different, a bit more mature, a bit more real.
Think about any great romantic comedy. I bet five dollars that whichever movie you’re thinking of has an amazingly quirky, probably hilarious minor character.
When Harry Met Sally has Sally’s desperate friend Marie. The Proposal has the crazy grandmother. 50 First Dates has Lucy’s lisping brother, Doug. And so on and so forth. Crazy Rich Asians is no different.
Peik Lin, Oliver, Bernard — all of these zany characters have a distinct purpose in Crazy Rich Asians and in romantic comedies as a whole. The oddball minor characters, no matter who they may be, provide juxtaposition for the main characters. They are able to tell it to the protagonist straight. They can tell the protagonist when something is absolutely bonkers nuts. Through their big personalities and relationship to the main characters, the minor characters provide balance to the overall plot of any rom-com.
The plot of Crazy Rich Asians is pretty reliant on one moment in particular — a woman in New York who sees Nick Young with his girlfriend and decides to text a friend back home in Singapore about who the mysterious girlfriend is.
To illustrate this, the filmmakers created a fun montage of text messages, Google searches, voicemails, and emojis. As word of Nick’s girlfriend spread throughout Singapore, and Singaporean expats around the world, colorful ribbons traced paths between people and places to bring the gossip train to life on screen.
Technology is here, and it’s here to stay. Embrace it in your rom-com. Use it to your advantage and have fun with it.
It’s right in the title, the “rom” part of rom-com. Ah, romance.
Yes, your rom-com must include some kind of relationship, otherwise, you’re writing for the wrong genre. But, the plot itself doesn’t have to revolve around love.
Shocking, I know. But the best rom-coms are about something else, too. Crazy Rich Asians is about class differences, family, and tradition, and what happens when a solid relationship is put to the test in a new environment. It’s not about “will they or won’t they” — they already have. It’s about whether or not a relationship will survive.
Thankfully, this trend seems to be fading into the background for the time being. For a time, rom-coms were all about which guy the girl was going to choose. It’s a decent trope, but one that was beaten to death throughout the 2000s.
The fact of the matter is… it’s just not realistic. So rarely in real life does anyone get put in a situation in which they have to choose between two suitable partners. More often, it’s about finding a partner at all or making it work with the partner you’ve found.
Crazy Rich Asians may involve other couples, but it doesn’t involve another possible love interest for Rachel or Nick. And the plot is all the better for it.
Sometimes rom-coms don’t have antagonist characters at all, but when they do, it’s important that they have redeeming moments. While fantasy and sci-fi stories can get away with having all-bad, unforgiving villains, rom-coms are rooted in real life, in love, and the audience must be able to relate to the antagonist, too.
In Crazy Rich Asians, the antagonist character is Eleanor Young, Nick’s intimidating mother. She’s fierce, traditional, and a bit scary. But, she’s also a mother. And the movie makes sure to show her in times of doubt, inferiority, and desperation so that the viewers understand her just as well as Nick or Rachel.
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Britton Perelman is a writer and storyteller based in Los Angeles, California. When not buried in a book or failing spectacularly at cooking herself a meal, she’s probably talking someone’s ear off about the last thing she watched. She loves vintage typewriters, the Cincinnati Reds, and her dog, Indy. Find more of her work on her website, or follow her on Instagram.
Photo credit: Ivanhoe Pictures