There are plenty of reasons why Crazy Rich Asians became one of the highest-grossing and most beloved romantic comedies of the 2010s. The love story between the strong and intelligent Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) and the uber-wealthy yet humble Nick Young (Henry Golding) is endearing, exciting, and lovable. With a diverse cast that highlights Asian representation in U.S. media, and some of the most visually appealing settings, fashion, and cultural highlights, the movie is a feast for the eyes and the heart from start to finish. But in addition to all of that, Crazy Rich Asians also features a subplot with its side characters that is even better than the main couple’s. Despite being a secondary character, Astrid Leong-Teo’s (Gemma Chan) story arc is the most compelling in the film, following her as she navigates the lofty expectations of her wealth amid romantic conflict and the reclamation of her power.

Astrid is a member of the prestigious Young family, one of the richest families in Asia with social status akin to royalty in Singapore. While plenty of the Young’s are exorbitant and out-of-touch, Astrid and her cousin Nick remain more grounded, despite their extreme wealth. Throughout the film, Astrid is one of Rachel’s most supportive friends, having met her before the events of the movie. Despite Rachel’s less-than-affluent background, Astrid never looks down on her and is constantly supportive of her dear cousin’s girlfriend. However, in addition to her supporting role in Rachel and Nick’s story, Astrid has a character arc that steals the show with its emotional weight and intrigue.

Astrid begins the film married to Michael (Pierre Png), a tech start-up owner and the father of their child, Cassius. However, despite the outward portrayal of a pristine marriage, their relationship is fraught with concern. Because Michael doesn’t come from a wealthy background like Astrid, he is constantly insecure about the disparity in wealth and prestige between him and his wife. To protect her husband’s pride, Astrid often hides her extravagant purchases to keep him from feeling smaller. However, despite these efforts, Michael’s insecurities are as apparent as ever, as he is constantly bringing them up in conversation. Unprompted by anything Astrid says, Michael constantly brings up her perfect reputation and unbelievable wealth, referring to himself as a lowly commoner despite his wife’s reassurances. Throughout the film, Michael is distracted by his work, constantly pushing other responsibilities aside to handle things in the office. Astrid constantly tries to support him, even volunteering to be an assistant at his office to help ease his workload. However, he repeatedly rebuffs her help, seeing them as acts of pity rather than affection.

Astrid eventually discovers that Michael is having an affair and confronts him after he dismissively refuses to be present for their son’s birthday while on their way to an important wedding. Michael cites irreconcilable differences between the two as the reason for his infidelity, asserting that he could never live up to the expectations of the Young family. Yet again, despite Astrid’s attempts to calm the situation and make it through the wedding, Michael is unwilling to see his wife’s perspective and angrily leaves. Astrid, ever the consummate and proud Young, nonetheless attends the wedding with her head held high as she is accompanied by her grandmother, Shang Su Yi (Lisa Lu), the revered head of their entire group.

After her attempts at compromise to placate her husband had all failed, Astrid sees the folly of trying to change herself to appease someone who couldn’t fully accept her. When Michael tries to move out of their shared apartment, Astrid insists that she and her son leave instead, as Michael was the one who bought the residence. She will go to one of the fourteen apartments that she owns instead. Astrid reclaims her power, refusing to kowtow to someone who judged her for her upbringing and responsibilities to her family. She asserts this with the most powerful and impactful line from the movie, telling Michael, “It’s not my job to make you feel like a man. I can’t make you something you’re not.” This powerful declaration firmly establishes Astrid’s growth as a character, affirming that she does not, and should not, change herself to make someone else happy. She never had a choice about being born into the Young family, but she nonetheless understands the responsibilities and power that come with her status.

The ensemble cast of the film includes some of the most talented actors in the field, such as Academy Award winner Michelle Yeoh and the endlessly endearing Nico Santos. Yeoh portrays the regal authority of Eleanor Young, Nick’s mother, with ferocity and unwavering pride. Santos’ character, Oliver, is as colorful and friendly as his self-proclaimed description as “the rainbow sheep of the family.” However, even with such notable performances from the rest of the cast, Gemma Chan gives an incomparable performance because of how she portrays both extremes of the Young family. Like Eleanor, Astrid moves with the poise of a royal, perfectly graceful in social settings without a hint of weakness in front of others. And like Oliver, she is amicable and approachable, an earnest friend to Rachel who was willing to take up a shovel and help her bury a rotten fish that was left to insult the less affluent visitor.

Astrid’s story and character are distinctly and powerfully feminine, confronting and overcoming many problems that women often have to face. She refuses to continue compromising with her unrepentant and gaslighting husband, understanding that independence is more important for her and her son. She shows kindness to Rachel, refusing to align with the bullying perpetrated by the jealous and mean women from the wealthy community. Astrid’s duality is perfectly exemplified in her introduction scene, as she walks through a jewelry store with every eye in the building locked onto the famous socialite. However, instead of needlessly parading through the venue, she kneels to speak with a young child whose own parents are dismissive of her playful actions. In less than a minute, Astrid shows herself as a kindhearted soul, even with all the attention and gravity that her reputation brings her, and she only demonstrates more kindness and resilience throughout the rest of the film.

Astrid’s character arc of reclaiming her independence and power is punctuated by beautiful symbolism that bookends her appearance in the film. In her introductory scene, Astrid purchases a pair of exquisite earrings that are not just ludicrously expensive but foreshadow her growth. According to the jeweler, the earrings originally belonged to Queen Supalayat, a royal from Southeast Asia who wore the earrings during her self-coronation. Despite falling in love with the purchase, Astrid chooses to hide her earrings from her husband in her continued efforts to ease his insecurity. However, after leaving Michael and reasserting her independence, Astrid adorns herself with the earrings in a moment of powerful symbolism. Like Queen Supalayat, Astrid’s actions illustrate her reclamation of her power and acceptance of her regal status, choosing to no longer compromise her identity to accommodate someone unable to accept it.

Astrid’s story in Crazy Rich Asians is impactful, complete with feminist values and a realistically bittersweet perspective on relationships. While Rachel and Nick’s relationship features the budding optimism and success of bridging the gap between people of different backgrounds, Astrid’s story is a cautionary tale about not truly accepting one’s partner for who they are. Fortunately for Astrid, her story doesn’t end with her separation from Michael, as the mid-credits scene of the film shows a chance meeting with her ex-lover, Charlie Wu (Harry Shum Jr.). The story of these two is only just beginning, as a spin-off to Crazy Rich Asians has been confirmed to be in development, with Astrid and Charlie taking center stage.

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