It was surprisingly hard for me to review everything everywhere at once, because my reaction keeps changing over time. I was looking forward to it, like many moviegoers who see the same things over and over again in the movies and freak out at the prospect of something new. Watching the movie was a lot of fun at first, creating fast-paced and cleverly controlled mayhem almost from the start, which seemed to deliver on all of its over-the-top promise.
Then the gradual deflation began, as the film began to get repetitive and lost steam at what seemed like an overly long running time of 139 minutes.
At first I was generally disappointed, though of course I wanted to congratulate Daniels (the professional name of the writing/directing team Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert) for his inventiveness and energy. He still felt that his film was a tremendous showcase of the talents and charms of the fabulous international star Michelle Yeoh, played against all odds in the title role of Evelyn Wang, the exhausted failure in all walks of life who gradually absorbs the strength of their countless other selves. in the multiverse.
But there has been a strange side effect. Now, when I look back on the movie, I can’t imagine the more raucous and colorful scenes that everyone is talking about that represent the huge variety of multiverse worlds that Evelyn bounces around in: the fantastically comical kung-fight “butt plug scene”. -fu. for example, or that reality where everyone has flexible “hotdog fingers” and Yeoh and Jamie Lee Curtis play a devoted lesbian couple with haircuts identical to pageboys. When I think about the movie now, I picture Yeoh looking strong, calm, and tender, the ideal motherly trifecta, which means the ending must have worked better than I thought at the time.
The basic plot of the film involves a middle-aged, miserable and disheveled Evelyn, who is “bad at everything”, reaching a crisis point in several areas of her life at the same time. Her dismal laundry business is going under; her family relationships are difficult; and she’s throwing a combined New Year’s Eve and welcome to America party for her moody, judgmental father, Gong Gong (James Hong), who has just arrived from China. Worst of all, she’s being audited by the IRS and trying to organize the thousands of crumpled and dirty documents that represent the mess of her life for a high-pressure, make-or-break appointment with fearsome IRS inspector Deirdra Beaubeirdra, a bitter and cut. pot-bellied and gaping termagant. (Jamie Lee Curtis is a total vanity-free hoot in this role.)
It’s when she takes on the IRS, one of the most fearsome entities in American life, that Evelyn breaks down.
These riotous early scenes of her apparent mental breakdown involve the sudden appearance of “Alpha Waymond,” her sweet-but-cowardly husband’s fast and confident kung-fu version, Waymond (played by Ke Huy Quan, the former child actor who was short round in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom Y Data in the goonies, returning to acting after a long break). Her quick instructions do little to prepare her for the multiverse chaos that is about to descend on the IRS offices. There are so many rules about how to navigate life-saving leaps into other realities that Evelyn spends almost the first hour of the film trying to understand them. Suffice to say, they involve some impressively crazy things, like having to do something extremely counter-intuitive or even viscerally painful to prepare for the “verse jump”, like when Alpha Waymond starts grabbing sheets of paper and giving himself paper cuts, cutting the tender connective skin between your fingers. (I had to cover my eyes for that).
The wacky laughs and thrill of the action seem to be the best part of the movie experience as it goes on, though even that gets a little boring by the end due to sheer repetition, while the healing of the dysfunctional family taking over at End of the movie seems slower. , invented, and nondescript at first. Ultimately, the film becomes a mother-daughter story, with Evelyn, unable to handle any of her relationships, having to resolve the one with her completely estranged daughter, Joy (Stephanie Hsu), in order to save the multiverse. Joy is the host of a nihilistic entity named Jobu Tupaki, who is always dressed and made up for a wild party, without the party spirit. She rampages through worlds bent on total destruction in the form of the black hole-like “all bagel” force field she has built to absorb all realities.
But as the days have passed since I’ve seen the film, the image of Evelyn in her worn maroon quilted vest and the final look of hard-earned wisdom in her eyes has stuck with me. I may be cracking up, of course, under the pressure of overwhelming current events, and beginning to feel that terrible tenderness for all representations of struggling humanity that is characteristic of certain kinds of emotional crisis. But even allowing for that possibility, it seems to me that Michelle Yeoh achieves extraordinary emotional complexity in Evelyn’s portrayal of her.
And Ke Huy Quan matches her in a less flashy performance. Their whiny Waymond, routinely dismissed by Evelyn as “my silly husband,” is always trying to lighten the load on their lives in unfortunate ways, like googling random objects in his fancy laundromat, impersonating things with humor, suggesting animation in everything. inanimate. In one of the alternate realities that casts Evelyn as a glamorous movie star who never quite connects with the suave version of Waymond that she keeps finding, shot in the style of In the mood for love, Waymond delivers a moving speech representing his creed. He acknowledges that he appears weak and ineffectual to others, but explains that his constant attempts to soften and lighten life’s grim struggle is “my way of fighting” against the terrible forces of the world.
Reflecting on this, it seems that the Daniels have achieved a rare feat of imaginative tenderness in their depiction of ordinary people being battered by the cruel pressures of the world, yet still finding ways to get back on their feet.