LJamie Lee Curtis made ‘internet feud’ headlines last week when she gleefully declared on social media that her new movie is ‘surprising all Marvel movies’. The theme of the multiverse Everything everywhere all at once actually gave Dr Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (which costs eight times as much) a run for its money, both financially and artistically. Well above its weight, this inventive independent image displays spectacular ambitions that belie its limited budget. Yet for all its mad invention and frenetic visual wit, what drives this story of a woman trapped in a world of “laundry and taxes” is a tangible emotional punch – that more “special” effect that franchise blockbusters so often fail to deliver.
Michelle Yeoh sinks her teeth into a kaleidoscopic role that draws cheekily from her own catalog of genres. She plays Evelyn Wang, a disillusioned and exhausted Chinese-American who runs a laundromat with her smiling and disappointing husband, Waymond (Ke Huy Quan, who rose to fame as Short Round in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom). Together they attempt to fend off IRS auditor Deirdre Beaubeirdra, played with a job-worthy sneer and creepy Jamie Lee Curtis bangs.
Over the years, Evelyn (who swoons over TV musical romances) has dreamed of being everything from a singer or novelist to a therapist. But in real life, she’s racked with worries about her daughter, Joy (Stephanie Hsu), and her visiting dad, Gong Gong (James Hong), too scared to tell the latter that his granddaughter is gay. and too stuck up to tell him she loves him anyway.
Then, in an elevator at the tax office, the usually placid Waymond is suddenly transformed into a doer-like 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 “verse jumper” who threatens to tear reality apart. “Every rejection, every disappointment has led you to this moment,” he insists, revealing that an endless number of alternative possibilities await our antiheroine, and stating that although she is currently experiencing “the worst of you,” Evelyn is actually “capable of anything…because you’re so bad at everything”.
Filmmaking duo Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (collectively known as ‘Daniels’) cut their teeth on music videos and internet shorts before making the extremely odd flick ‘Fart Cadavre’ Swiss army man. For Everything everywhere all at once they were reportedly inspired by Japanese artist Ikeda Manabu, whose work (“so intricate, so detailed, so dense”) can appear chaotic in close-up but somehow clear from a distance. So does this film, which delights in sending its protagonist into a bewildering array of increasingly absurd worlds (in one, people have hot dogs for their fingers) while maintaining overarching structures. recognizable.
Despite all its whimsical trappings, it is a film with down-to-earth concerns: mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, coming of age and coming out, dreams and disappointments, otherness and belonging, generation gaps and information overload. Like the sci-fi stories of Kilgore Trout, Kurt Vonnegut’s alter ego, or the increasingly influential films of Douglas Adams. Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxythe narrative may be out of this world, but the issues it tackles (a life of “fractured moments, contradictions and confusion” in which things have only fleeting meaning) are unmistakably human.
Alongside hits from the 90s such as The matrix and fight clubthe Daniels litter their upstart film with big Stanley Kubrick allusions 2001, At Wong Kar-Wai’s love mood and (most bizarrely) Pixar Ratatouille, all tumble-dried with elements from Jackie Chan’s martial arts epics, Mexican luchador films and Michel Gondry’s DIY philosophy. A rich and complex score by American experimental group Son Lux throws it all together and the food sinks into the mix on a soundtrack that glides from dizzying psychedelic noises to melancholy fragments of Debussy’s Clair de Lune. The result may be a bit too long and convoluted, but it made me laugh, cry, and think – which is more than can be said for many Marvel movies.