This movie was simply a masterpiece. Personally, I don’t put much stock in the Oscars, but this film won 7 of them for a reason. It is absolutely stunning and breathtaking on multiple levels.
The premise revolves around Evelyn Wang, a Chinese immigrant to the USA who runs a laundromat alongside her husband, Waymond. There’s a lot of family drama going on as the story opens - Evelyn’s father has come to visit from China, which puts a lot of stress onto Evelyn because of all his high expectations. The Wangs’ daughter Joy is hoping she can introduce her girlfriend to him, but Evelyn won’t allow it. And Waymond is secretly holding divorce documents that he hasn’t shown to Evelyn yet, unsure how to bring it up. In the midst of ALL of this the laundromat’s taxes are due, and they’re trying to prepare for a Lunar New Year party. Typical family stuff.
Hopefully at this point everyone has seen the movie, but I won’t delve much further into it to avoid the spoiler effect. The title and the trailers make it very clear the story is about traveling through a multiverse, which is of course the story’s main plot, and it is handled incredibly. Multiverses have suddenly become quite popular in modern stories, but this movie is one of the few that doesn’t feel forced or cliched in any way. And it doesn’t exist just as any sort of storytelling cop-out: despite it being the main setting and point of the movie, it still takes a backseat to the Wang family themselves and the reason the story is being told.
This movie has quite an all-star cast, and may I just say it is perfectly cast. Michelle Yeoh [Crazy Rich Asians, Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Memoirs of a Geisha] does a stellar job of playing Evelyn in all her forms and at every stage of her personal journey. Evelyn feels truly real and authentic, flaws and all. And Stephnie Hsu [The Marvelous Mrs. Mazel, Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings] as Joy blew me away completely. As someone who is the same age as Joy, I hugely understand and relate to all her struggles in the beginning of the movie, and Stephanie Hsu perfectly captures just what that feels like. But then came a scene where, well, if you’ve seen the movie you know which scene I mean. That turnaround for her was UNBELIEVABLE, and played just as perfectly normal and relatable as Joy had been.
Ever since I was in second grade, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom has been one of my favorite movies of all time, purely because of Ke Huy Quan’s [Goonies, Loki, X-Men, Encino Man (stunts)] performance as Short Round. Seeing him finally return to the big screen was a momentous occasion, and he still steals the show from every other actor in the whole film, as in both of his previous movies. Waymond Wang is truly the heart and soul of the entire story, and there is no better actor to play that kind of character than Ke Huy Quan.
Jamie Lee Curtis [Halloween, True Lies, Freaky Friday, A Fish Called Wanda] was impeccable as always, as was James Hong [Mulan, Kung Fu Panda, Big Trouble in Little China, The Golden Child]. Neither of these actors has ever had a bad performance in their career, that I have seen. And both had to dig pretty deep for what the story and characters required of them. Each had to be so strong and so versatile. Each had to convince us more than once. And with each convincing the gain is in our favor. As a matter of fact, it was Jamie Lee Curtis who sought out and convinced Ke Huy Kwan to take on the supporting role of the father, Waymond (truly the performance that conveys the meaning behind the narrative’s madness).
The directing and writing team (Daniel Kwan/Daniel Scheinheart) and and the cinematography (Larkin Seiple) and editing (Paul Rogers) are all indescribably gorgeous. You have to see it to believe how out of this world it truly is. And the soundtrack was also incredible - the through line of Clair de Lune weaved into several of the songs (especially in the fight scenes) was both hilarious and gorgeous. And the “Opera Fight” scene… just wonderful.
Obviously, this movie is rated R, but I will just go ahead and warn anyway - DO NOT TAKE YOUR KIDS TO SEE THIS FILM or RENT IT FOR THEM TO STREAM. A lot of the action scenes caused me to close my eyes because of how realistically the violence was portrayed. Much of the imagery was also disturbing and highly “inappropriate,” as it were. But that shock value has a purpose in jarring the audience to inward motion as the characters are also jarred into inward motion. And though there was nothing truly scary or frightening in the movie ever, something about it still just made me feel unsettled and nervous. If any of these things would simply be too much for you, I would also recommend not going to see the movie. Even though it’s one of the greatest stories in recent cinematic history (and perhaps all cinematic history - this remains to be seen), that part of it may be lost on you if you couldn’t stomach these filmmaking choices.
The reason why this movie is such a big deal is easily explained, I think. It’s not just that it’s a visually stunning, incredibly well-crafted story. It’s that the story they chose to tell strikes a deep chord with most people in our present world, particularly after everything we’ve all been through together these last 10 years. It’s easier than ever to want to give up, to say that nothing actually matters. But no matter how often we feel that way, we need to continue to push on, because really everything matters so, so much. There is meaning in both the good and the bad. The way this movie chooses to share that message will have you in tears more than once, because you can feel in your soul that it is really the truth, an eternal, unchangeable truth. Suffice it to say, if you haven’t seen this movie yet (and if you think you can handle it), please do. I implore you to see it on the big screen if at all possible (I saw it for the first time on March 18 in theaters, hopefully after its wins at the Oscars it will stick around for a while). If not, see it anyway. You don’t want to miss out on this experience that will leave you feeling more in-tune with the world around you, and more at ease within your space (however uncomfortable) in the unending universe.