While Chinese-American laundromat owner Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh) was stressing for their coming audit with the IRS, she was also having problems with the members of her family. Her mild-mannered husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan) was thinking of divorcing her. Her formidable father Gong Gong (James Hong) had come for a visit from China. Her daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu) was pushing for acceptance of lesbian lifestyle.
While trying hard on focusing and answering the intense questions of IRS inspector Deirdre Beaubeirdre (Jamie Lee Curtis), an overwhelmed Evelyn began to experience a bizarre perception where everyone around her was being someone else. An authoritative Alpha version of Waymond told Evelyn about a "multiverse" that existed and that she could "jump" from one to another to access skills of other versions of herself.
This new film is by the writer-directorial team collectively known as "Daniels," namely Dan(iel) Kwan and Daniel Scheinert. After directing music videos and shorts, they wrote and directed "Swiss Army Man" (2016), a debut feature which won them the Directing Award at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. Their incredibly complex screenplay and innovative direction of this surreal sci-fi comedy-action film may well take them all the way to the Oscars.
Daniels' work on the screenplay began in 2016, but since then the concept of the Multiverse had already been introduced to the big screen via films like "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse" (2018) and just this year two more: "Spider-Man: No Way Home" and "Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness." Fortunately, the Daniels' original concept of the Multiverse still managed to distinguish itself from the more popular Marvel concept.
Michelle Yeoh knew that this was an acting challenge of a lifetime, and she committed fully to all the multiple roles she had to fill. Yeoh is definitely in contention for that Best Actress Oscar come awards season.
Stephanie Hsu was quite good as Joy the rebellious daughter, but for me she was not strong enough to pull off her alter-ego Jobu Tupaki, ultimate threat to the multiverse.
Jamie Lee Curtis was a joy to watch as the incredulous IRS agent Deidre.
Ke Huy Quan shifted well from gentle Waymond to masterful Alpha Waymond, though his high-pitched voice could be off-putting. I could not help but imagine how a younger Jackie Chan would have been perfect for his role (maybe he still would be actually).
Even if he was in a wheelchair, veteran character actor James Hong (93 years old, with a rich career that began in 1954) still had solid screen presence as Gong Gong and his other versions.
This Multiverse where Evelyn was jumping around in was not that easy to understand. For the first hour or so, you will be confused as to was happening as Evelyn became a glamorous movie star (with a reference to Wong Kar Wai's "In the Mood for Love"), a woman with floppy sausages as fingers, a Chinese opera singer, a teppanyaki chef (with a reference to Pixar's "Ratatouille"), a sign-spinner for a pizza shop or a rock on the edge of a cliff.
However, eventually you would "see" what it all meant, especially by the end of Act 2.
Like they did in "Swiss Army Man" before, Daniels again attempts to take on the meaning of life in their own silly absurdist way. We face several forks everyday in our path of life, and the choices we make decide how our life would turn out.
This existentialist concept of the Multiverse, chaotic as it may seem in this film, posits that there exist different versions of you living another version of life. The life you are living now may not be your best life at all.
This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."