Wednesday, May 25, 2022

'Everything Everywhere' creators set out to surprise with sci-fi action comedy

FBI Provides Chicago Police With Fake Social Media Identities Intercept. Furzy hoists: “Internal documents also reveal that police can take over informants’ social media accounts and pose as them online.”

Nothing is certain but death and taxes, and the science fiction film Everything Everywhere All At Once is in part a horror story about the latter. The tax office is the final boss for every immigrant family who has too many generations living under one roof, receipts that are too incriminating to explain, or breadwinners with a limited grasp of English. It was the first time that I had ever seen one of my deepest fears on the silver screen: that my life was too messy, too foreign, too fucked up for this country. EEAAO exposes Asian America’s most embarrassing insecurities and loves us anyway.

“I cannot imagine a conversation more important than this one.” The conversation in question? Evelyn is being audited for incorrectly filing her taxes. 

At the core of this mind-bending multiverse film starring Michelle Yeoh lies a story about true connection and being present in a world full of distractions.  

photoBrown nails in the butts everywhere as  the actions of IRS agent Deirdre Beaubeirdra (Jamie Lee Curtis) inadvertently set off a chain reaction that imperils the world as we know it in “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” the equal parts sci-fi, family drama, and kung fu comedy from directors Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert.

Jamie Lee Curtis (as Deirdre Beaubeirdra): “Now, you may only see a pile of receipts, but I see a story.”

It’s tax season in “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”

Jamie Lee Curtis (as Deirdre Beaubeirdra): “I can see where this story is going. It does not look good.”

But dealing with an IRS agent, played by Jamie Lee Curtis, is the least of Michelle Yeoh’s problems.

Michelle Yeoh (Evelyn Wang): “What’s happening?”

She’s a woman who realizes she’s part of a multiverse, and she’s gotta save the universe from being destroyed.

Ke Huy Quan (as Waymond Wang): “You can access all their memories, their emotions, even their skills.”

So what is a multiverse? We’ll let Jamie Lee explain.

Jamie Lee Curtis: “Every performance grounds the movie in a reality that is set in a multi-reality.”

Yeah, not sure we get it, but what we do know are the deets on the movie’s lead actress and her character, Evelyn.

Michelle Yeoh: “You never even notice her, you know, in the supermarket. She’s our aunties, our grandmothers, our mothers. She’s there, but she’s almost invisible. She’s taken for granted.”

Don’t underestimate middle-aged moms, ’cause Evelyn’s also a butt-kicking hero.

The movie’s about saving multiple universes, but it’s also about family, and the woman who makes sure their fam stays together.

Stephanie Hsu: “The heartbeat of this film is very much her. I mean, she really guided us through that story, and it wouldn’t have worked with anyone else but the Michelle Yeoh.”

Ke Huy Quan: “She’s our matriarch, she’s the head of the family, and I don’t think we could have done it with anybody else but her.”

Why You Should Watch ‘Everything Everywhere All At Once’ and Forget the Stress of Tax Season

For her portrayal of a crazy-named IRS inspector, the actress decided to "release every muscle I used to clench to hide the reality."

Jamie Lee Curtis was determined to look like she never has before in the new science fiction-action-comedy-drama Everything Everywhere All at Once. The film stars Michelle Yeoh as Evelyn Wang, the stressed-out manager of a Los Angeles laundromat who is enlisted to defeat an evil force, while Curtis portrays an IRS inspector named — wait for it — Deirdre Beaubeirdra.

As its title suggests, "Everything Everywhere All at Once" from creative duo Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, takes audiences on an elaborate adventure across multiple universes.

The movie stars Michelle Yeoh as laundromat owner Evelyn Wang who has trouble connecting with her family and paying her taxes.

Preoccupied by a visit by her estranged, aging father, things come to a head during an audit meeting with an IRS agent (Jamie Lee Curtis) when Evelyn's husband unexpectedly introduces her to an alternate multiverse. Evelyn and versions of who she might have become with different life choices are tasked with saving it from impending doom.

"The multiverse is such a terrible thing to explore in narrative or in film because the moment you introduce the idea of infinite possibilities, nothing that happens in this movie matters anymore," Kwan told Reuters.

"That became an opportunity to kind of explore scary thoughts and philosophically resonant feelings that, the more we talked about it, we're like, that's kind of what the 21st century feels like," added Scheinert.

Collectively known as Daniels, the duo directed music videos and the 2016 film "Swiss Army Man".

"It takes a lot nowadays to surprise people because we've seen it all," said Kwan. "Everything's a sequel. Everything's part of a franchise or a remake. And because of that, we had to constantly rewrite because we kept searching for things that really felt fresh."

In a nod to Kwan's roots, the film's dialogue mixes Mandarin, Cantonese and English. Early versions were written for Hong Kong superstar Jackie Chan and Yeoh.

"When we realised that Jackie Chan is unbelievably expensive and famous and busy, we just decided to focus more of our attention on Michelle's character because we already loved her and her character. And honestly, the script came alive. So it was for the best," said Scheinert.

 'Everything Everywhere' creators set out to surprise with sci-fi action comedy

Right at the beginning of the film, the Wang family launches into Frankensteined sentences of Mandarin, Cantonese, and English. They weren’t speaking slowly either — instructions and thoughts were being shot back and forth like in a badminton game. And the Wangs lived in an apartment that was located in the same building as their laundromat. Even before Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh) was jumping between multiverses, she was seamlessly switching between her work and domestic life. Evelyn wasn’t necessarily an innately powerful dimension traveler; immigrant life was the best practical training that she could get. 

But even the hyper-competent immigrant housewife had her kryptonite: tax season. Tax fraud was a trickling fear that superseded both education and personal integrity, a test for non-Americans to fail. The Wangs were not the “typical” American family that American institutions were designed for. They were a multilingual family with mixed citizenship status. Instead of a tax preparer, they had piles of memo pads, a child interpreter, and confectionery gifts. They had to be liars and fakers to survive a country that historically excluded Chinese people from public life.

The film is fresh in some ways — using sci-fi logic to tell an immigrant story of love and striving is ingenious. In other ways, it just feels like a low-budget Marvel movie that Kevin Feige and co let the creative team have full control over. The most interesting aspect of Everything Everywhere All at Once, the aspect that most certifies the chorus of critical claims to its “freshness” and progressive vision, is actually the movie’s strange connection to a particularly conservative product of Hollywood’s yesteryear.

The film centers on Evelyn Wang, an upper-middle-aged laundromat owner played by legendary Malaysian-born screen star Michelle Yeoh. Evelyn is overworked, harried, hampered by life’s never-ending obstacle course of setbacks and misfortunes, and constantly haranguing everyone around her to do better. Her husband, Waymond (Ke Huy Quan), cheerfully does her bidding but is quietly planning to serve her with divorce papers. Her daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu) is anything but.

A Chinese New Year party approaches, the IRS is bearing down on the Wangs to get their affairs in order, Evelyn’s father Gong Gong (James Hong) comes from China in poor health to live with them, and all Joy wants is for Evelyn to introduce her girlfriend, Becky (Tallie Medel), to Gong Gong as her girlfriend, not the “very good friend” that Evelyn settles on.

Small fissures grow, threatening to crack open the brittle clay pot of Evelyn’s life, to borrow a metaphor from the film. But help comes from an unexpected, even incomprehensible place. Evelyn and Waymond find ways of tapping into versions of themselves from alternate universes, versions who can outthink and outsmart anything that comes their way in this universe. And a lot does come their way.

After punching out an auditor (an exquisitely funny Jamie Lee Curtis) in a fit of multidimensional confusion, hordes of cops from this timeline join hordes of baddies from many other timelines, who all intend to destroy Evelyn. The baddies swear allegiance to Jobu Tupaki, the only being in the multiverse powerful enough to perceive all matter on all timelines simultaneously. Tupaki sees a threat in Evelyn, who, as alternate Waymond explains, is so powerful because she is the biggest failure of all Evelyns, the one who made all the wrong decisions, and thus the one who can tap into the power of all her better selves. Tupaki is also an alternate of Evelyn’s daughter, who created an evil everything bagel that has the power to swallow up the entire multiverse, naturally.

It’s a waste of time to write about Everything Everywhere All at Once’s plot, because you just need to watch it play out. Aside from Yeoh’s truly extraordinary performance, which completely subverts the poised, supporting-character glamour-goddess type she’s been entombed in, the most interesting part of this film is the surprisingly conservative ending. After two and a half hours of exaggerated performances, narrative experimentation, and extremely high energy genre deconstruction, the film essentially lands on the same note that every family-first propaganda comedy and scare-them-straight woman’s melodrama from the classical Hollywood period used to land on: respect your elders, listen to your children, and love your husband more.

Evelyn learns that the secret to defeating Jobu Tupaki is actually to love her. She only learns that once she finally opens her heart, stops controlling her family, and listens to her husband. Quan zags off some cringe, that reminds her how important love is — “I know you’re all fighting because you’re scared and confused. But you have to be kind, especially when you don’t know what’s going on.”

It bears more than a little resemblance to Rosalind Russell’s maudlin declaration at the end of the forgettable yet utterly characteristic woman’s picture Rendezvous — “Love is my true job!” As with films that are crazy for craziness’s sake, there’s nothing wrong with traditional family values. That the Daniels make such a strong case for them amid such unhinged lunacy in fact establishes an even deeper connection to bright, bewildering women’s pictures of yesteryear. Like those, it may take people a while to realize what a classic Everything Everywhere All at Once already is.

Courtesy of Book of Faces Kate Lils