lLast week, Jamie Lee Curtis made headlines about “internet feud” when she gleefully stated on social media that her new movie “outruns any Marvel movie.” The Multiverse Theme Everything everywhere at once has indeed given dr. Strange in the multiverse of madness (which cost eight times as much) a run for its money, both financially and artistically. Far above its weight, this inventive indie photo has spectacular ambitions that belie its limited budget. But for all its wacky inventions and outrageous visual humor, what drives this tale of a woman trapped in a world of “laundry and taxes” is a palpable emotional blow—that most “special” effect that franchise blockbusters so often fail to deliver.
Michelle Yeoh sinks her teeth into a kaleidoscopic role that boldly draws from her own genre-hopping back catalog. She plays Evelyn Wang, a disillusioned and exhausted Chinese-American woman who runs a laundromat with her smilingly disappointing husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan, who first became known as Short Round in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom† Together, they try to fend off IRS auditor Deirdre Beaubeirdra, played by Jamie Lee Curtis with a sensual grin and terrifying bangs.
Over the years, Evelyn (who swoons over musical romances on TV) dreamed of being everything from singer or novelist to therapist. But in real life, she is consumed with worries about her daughter, Joy (Stephanie Hsu), and her visiting father, Gong Gong (James Hong), too scared to tell the latter that his granddaughter is gay, and too tense to tell the former that. to tell. she loves her anyway.
Then, in an elevator at the tax office, the usually quiet Waymond is suddenly transformed into an action-man version of himself from another multiverse, on a Matrix-style mission to find “the one” who can save them from Jobu Tupaki, an all-powerful “fresh jumper” who threatens to tear reality apart. “Every rejection, every disappointment has led you to this moment,” he insists, revealing that an infinite number of alternative possibilities await our antiheroine, and stating that although she is currently living “the worst you,” Evelyn is in fact “capable of everything… because you’re so bad at everything†
Film duo Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (collectively known as “Daniels”) cut their teeth in music videos and internet shorts before making the extremely weird movie “Farting Corpse” Swiss army man† For Everything everywhere at once they were reportedly inspired by Japanese artist Ikeda Manabu, whose work (“so intricate, so detailed, so compact”) can appear chaotic in close-up, but somehow clear from a distance. The same goes for this movie, which loves to send its protagonist into a bewildering array of increasingly absurd worlds (in one, people have hot dogs for fingers) while maintaining recognizable overarching structures.
For all its imaginative trappings, this is a film of sober concerns: mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, coming of age and coming out, dreams and disappointments, being different and belonging, generational gaps and information overload. Like the sci-fi stories of Kurt Vonnegut’s alter ego Kilgore Trout, or Douglas Adams’ increasingly influential HitchhIker’s Guide to the Galaxythe story may be out of this world, but the problems it tackles (a life of “broken moments, contradictions, and confusion” where things only make fleeting sense) are undeniably human.
In addition to hits from the 90s like the matrix and fight clubthe Daniels litter their upstart movie with grand allusions to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001† Wong Kar-Wai’s In the mood for love and (most bizarre) Pixar’s Ratatouille, all tumble dried with elements of Jackie Chan martial arts epics, Mexican luchador movies and Michel Gondry’s DIY ethos. A rich and complex score by American experimental band Son Lux throws everything and the kitchen into the mix on a soundtrack that slides from dizzying psychedelic sounds to melancholic snippets of Debussy’s Clair de Lune. The result may be a little too long and intricately overcrowded, but it made me laugh, cry, and think — which is more than can be said of many a Marvel movie.