Crazy Rich Asians was a box office smash. It went on to become the highest grossing romantic comedy of the 2010s. How did it accomplish such a feat? There’s a great deal for screenwriters to learn from this screenplay, such as how to write humor and how to offer unique twists on a worn out genre. Let’s take a look at the Crazy Rich Asians script. 

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Peter Chiarelli - Headshot
Adele Lim - Headshot

WHO WROTE crazy rich asians SCRIPT?

Written by Peter Chiarelli and Adele Lim

Peter Chiarelli began his film career producing the short film Terry Tate Office Linebacker. He worked his way through Red Wagon Entertainment and MGM until his screenwriting career began with 2009’s The Proposal. His other screenwriting credits include Pitch Perfect 3, Now You See Me 2, and, of course, Crazy Rich Asians

Adele Lim got her start working on Xena: Warrior Princess. From there, she went on to write for such shows as One Tree Hill, Private Practice, and Lethal Weapon. Her feature film screenwriting debut was on Crazy Rich Asians before moving onto Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon

STORY BREAKDOWN

STRUCTURE OF CRAZY RICH ASIANS SCREENPLAY

Here is the story structure for the Crazy Rich Asians screenplay:

Exposition

The Crazy Rich Asians plot begins with a scene where the Young family is denied a room at an extravagant hotel. Eleanor, the matriarch of the Young family, proceeds to purchase the hotel. In one scene, we understand just how powerful and wealthy the Young family are. 

Inciting Incident

The story jumps forward in time. The young boy in the first scene, Nick, is now a man who’s dating Rachel Chu. Nick invites Rachel to come with him to Singapore to attend his friend’s wedding as well as to meet his family. 

Plot Point One

Nick does everything he can to avoid telling Rachel about his family’s wealth, such as the two of them staying at a hotel instead of his mother’s house. 

Rising Action

Nick finally introduces Rachel to his family and friends, and she sticks out like a sore thumb. Others make rude, nasty comments about what she’s wearing and how much money she has. 

Midpoint

Nick has a conversation with his mother. She wants him to come back to China, but he doesn’t want to leave New York. As the audience, we know Rachel is unaware of Nick’s conflict, and we can expect this to play out further in the second act. 

Plot Point Two

At the bachelorette party, Rachel goes back to her room to find a cut-open fish with “Catch this, you gold-digging bitch!” written in red. Rachel now understands the extent these other people don’t want  her there. 

Build Up

Hurt after what Eleanor tells her, Rachel still decides to go to the wedding (Follow the link for a complete wedding scene breakdown). She arrives in a glamorous dress to try to prove she is good enough to be with Nick. 

Climax

Rachel plays an intense game of mahjong with Eleanor. She proves that her worth comes from her intelligence and morals and not from how “Asian” others perceive her to be. 

Finale

Nick proposes to Rachel. They go to a massive engagement party. Rachel and Eleanor share a glance, one of understanding. She’s been accepted into the family. 

Crazy Rich Asians Script Takeaway #1

Crazy Rich Asians quotes

Numerous themes permeate through the film. One of the most important is the idea of what truly makes someone Asian. Throughout the movie, there’s a clash between Asians and Asian-Americans. And one of these ideas is brought to the forefront when Rachel meets Eleanor for the first time. 

Let's look at the scene with StudioBinder's screenwriting software to see how the writers navigate this delicate situation. Follow the image link to read the entire scene.

Crazy Rich Asians Quotes  •  Crazy Rich Asians Movie Script

The clash of sensibilities is on full display. Being an economics professor at NYU would ordinarily impress any American parent. But Eleanor responds to this information by stating that in Chinese culture, parents play a more active role in ensuring their kids have the right career for the family. 

The scene also showcases Rachel’s “otherness” in this country. She’s Asian, but she’s not the right Asian. She’s done well for herself, but her family doesn’t come from any place of wealth.

There are many films that deal with race but few look at the modern idea of being Asian-American as well as this film.

Meeting His Mother  •  Crazy Rich Asians PDF

Ideas of tradition, femininity, and class also come into play. Sometimes it’s comedic. Sometimes it’s deadly serious. But all Crazy Rich Asians characters have their belief system expressed through dialogue. 

  • “I chose to help my husband run a business and to raise a family. For me, it was a privilege. But for you, you may think it's old-fashioned. It's nice you appreciate this house and us being here together wrapping dumplings. But all this doesn't just happen. It's because we know to put family first, instead of chasing one's passion.”
  • “Okay, game plan. Check our bags, get through security, and then we could eat one of the three homemade Tupperware meals my mom packed for us.”
  • “Rachel, these people aren't just rich, okay. They're crazy rich. Look, there's new money all over Asia. We got the Beijing Billionaires, the Taiwan Tycoons. But the Young family, they're old money rich.”
  • “Good for you. Walking away from Nick and his family's fat-ass property portfolio. You have no one, no net worth, but you have integrity. That's why I respect you.”
  • “I'm so Chinese I'm an econ professor with lactose intolerance.”
  • “Chinese sons think their moms fart Chanel No. 5.”

Crazy Rich Asians Script Takeaway #2

Crazy Rich Asians symbolism

Several symbols are used throughout the film. However, the most important is the game of mahjong used in the pivotal climax. Vox writer Jeff Yang does an exceptional job explaining the history of mahjong and how the various pieces relate to what Rachel and Eleanor discuss in the scene. 

Crazy Rich Asians Mahjong Scene Dialogue  •  Crazy Rich Asians Screenplay PDF

In the scene, Rachel reveals that Nick asked her to marry him, offering to never see his family again, but she turned him down. On the surface, she gives Eleanor the win. And in the game of mahjong they play together, Rachel surrenders a piece she could have used to win. Instead, she discards it, allowing Eleanor to play it and have a greater chance at victory.

This move represents how self-sacrificing Rachel truly is. Eleanor criticized her earlier for pursuing her passions rather than doing what’s best for the family. By turning down Nick’s proposal, Rachel keeps the Young family together. She proves to Eleanor that she encompasses all of the attributes she would have wanted out of a spouse for Nick even if she was born in the United States. 

Crazy Rich Asians Mahjong Scene

You don’t have to understand the mechanics of mahjong to appreciate the scene. However, the way the game intertwines with the narrative adds newfound depth to a scene. It’s not something you’d typically find in a romantic comedy, which makes the movie stand out even more. 

Crazy Rich Asians Script Takeaway #3

Crazy Rich Asians subplots

The Crazy Rich Asians summary presented above goes through the main story involving Rachel, Nick, and Eleanor. However, there’s another plot throughout the film that gets developed, and it’s between Astrid and Michael. 

When we’re first introduced to them, they seem like a typical married couple. Michael works a lot at the office, but Astrid is understanding. Their life seems glamorous and complete until Astrid looks at Michael’s phone and sees the worst test imaginable. 

Crazy Rich Asians Subplots  •  Read the Entire Scene

Astrid comes from one of the most prestigious Chinese families in the world. Any man should be lucky to be with her. And yet, Michael still cheated. There’s a consistent idea that runs through the film about what it means to be “good enough.” Rachel is poor and isn’t good enough for the Young family. But Astrid is rich and still isn’t good enough for her husband. 

The Astrid subplot does what any good subplot should do — explore and deepen ideas set forth in the main plot while being engaging on its own. 

Astrid Leaves Michael  •  Crazy Rich Asians Plot

With memorable characters and an engaging plot all the way through, Crazy Rich Asians shows how the romantic comedy still has a place in the 21st century. And the screenplay serves as a great reminder for all the screenwriters out there how a unique perspective can make all the difference. 

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Crazy Rich Asians does a superb job of telling a universal story while subverting stereotypes Asians are often held to in Hollywood films. If you want to continue reading screenplays, we have similar titles like Moonlight, Mean Girls, and Manchester by the Sea in our screenplay database. Browse and download PDFs for all of our scripts as you read, write and practice your craft to become the next great screenwriter.

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2 comments

  1. They were going to Singapore and not China for the wedding. Nick Young is from a wealthy family in Singapore.

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