In the opening scene of Everything Everywhere All At Once, Michelle Yeoh’s character Evelyn Wang, an aging Chinese immigrant, is sitting behind mountains of business records, trying, without success, to figure out in which pile to place a receipt for a karaoke machine. As she’s preparing for an IRS audit, she is constantly interrupted by family members needing her attention, customers at her laundromat complaining, washing machines on the fritz, details for an upcoming Chinese New Year party needing her focus. Although she handles every single problem without hesitation, she is exhausted and distracted, and has the smoldering expression many of us can relate to: she’s about to snap at any moment.
Many of us remember Yeoh as the gorgeous but icy mother-in-law in Crazy Rich Asians.
The description of the movie piqued my curiosity: “an unlikely hero must channel her newfound powers to fight bizarre and bewildering dangers from the multiverse as the fate of the world hangs in the balance.”
All that aside, I really just wanted to see 59-year-old Michelle Yeoh kick some ass. The Malaysian actress dazzled in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, many Hong Kong action films, as well as mainstream films like James Bond’s Tomorrow Never Dies. Many of us remember her as the gorgeous but icy mother-in-law in Crazy Rich Asians.
The former Miss Malaysia has had a pretty fabulous career: Along with winning multiple awards for acting and martial arts, she has been a dancer, choreographer, film producer, and even a member of France’s Legion of Honour. She was voted by People magazine as one of the 50 Most Beautiful People in the World, small wonder, gazing at those glorious cheekbones and all that surrounds them.
Flipping into a Different Reality
Last week, I invited a group of Austin NextTribers to join me for drinks and a movie, and I think none of us was really prepared for the assault on the senses about to hit us. Anytime I’ve seen a film with the term “multiverse” in the description, I know to buckle down and try my best to pay attention to a storyline that flips back and forth between multiple realities.
What I could really relate to was the complicated emotional dance between the mother and daughter.
Evelyn’s present day reality is relatable: Along with multiple family business problems, Yeoh’s character is also trying, without success, to handle the needs of her elderly father Gong Gong, who has just arrived from China, her hilariously sarcastic daughter Joy who is trying to get her mother to acknowledge and accept her girlfriend, and her almost too-sweet husband who is trying to get her to read a sheaf of papers.
In fact, two of the film’s most endearing characters are her husband Waymond, and her daughter Joy’s girlfriend Becky. Both are steady, loving, supportive partners to emotional, reactive alpha women, who can’t take the time to pay them any attention. They are both under-appreciated in all of the frenzy.
As a viewer, the multiverse part of this story became a blur of flashing lights and weapons, and complicatedly choreographed fight scenes, as well as some kinda gross humor. (How many butt plug jokes are too many?) But ultimately what I could relate to in the many existential crises was the complicated emotional dance between the mother and daughter. Underneath all the crazy stunts, costumes and dazzling movements, was a true tale of the yearning for acceptance and love between the generations. The trouble is, no one has five seconds to sit down and talk and listen to each other. They all are just juggling everything everywhere all at once.
What the Hell Did We Just Watch?
As the NextTribers stumbled out of the theater, we all had similar dazed expressions. What the HELL did we just watch? Not sure how many thumbs up (or hot dog fingers, trust me) any of us would give the film, but I believe we all walked away mightily impressed with Michelle Yeoh’s range of looks, moves, and emotions. Ultimately, there was a poignant, much-needed finish to the film.
Bonus: check out the amazing soundtrack of the film on Spotify: The band Son Lux composed the score with collaborations with David Byrne, Andre 3000, Randy Newman and more.