Imagine that every decision you make leads to a parallel reality in which your life takes a different path. Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh) has a lot of experience in this field. None of the feelings she developed (and quickly abandoned) led to a revolution in her existence. The successes of her twins reverberate in alternate worlds in the form of bills landing on a tax office employee’s desk. Strict, but capable of human reflexes, Deidre (Jamie Lee Curtis) gives the heroine one last chance to arrange her inventory. Unexpectedly, Evelyn will have to face even more powerful and dark forces from the treasury. At stake in this battle will be the fate of the entire system of universes working in tandem, and the weapon will be a series of failures and missed opportunities.
Training speaking, Evelyn whom we meet at the beginning of the movie is the worst version of herself. While her counterparts from parallel worlds are the acclaimed actresses and singers, who know kung fu or boast a lung capacity greater than the average person, she runs a ramshackle laundry room and tries to stay afloat. Intertwined between the needs of her rebellious daughter (Stephanie Hsu) and the expectations of her conservative father (James Hong), she doesn’t even notice when her husband (Ke Huy Quan) presents her with divorce papers. Ironically, it’s not her, but her best version – a genius physicist best known for developing a system for communicating with alternate worlds – that makes the biggest mistake. By screwing the demands on the branches, he creates a monster. Loaded with training, Joy transforms into a cynical and demoralizing Gobu Tobaki – a destroyer of worlds who brings death to ease her suffering.
Working out mother-daughter feuds may not be very revealing, but the way Cowan and Scheinert serve us this story is commendable. The duo behind the camera are splashing out with amazing ideas. The material from which they make alternate worlds are often cues of cynophiles. One moment they parody the famous sequence from “2001: A Space Odyssey”, the next moment they hit the somber tunes straight from “Thirsty Love” and carelessly jump into “Ratatuja” (with raccoons only). All thanks to Michelle Yeoh. Evelyn’s screen does not lose its echo even in the blink of an eye. She goes from tired mother and wife to brave warrior without hesitation — no matter if she’s brandishing teppanyaki kitchen utensils or as the wuxia star (what a cute autobiographical nod for the main role!) she shines during the party premiere of her movie.
The protagonist’s sophistication is symbolically reflected in the clothes Evelyn wore – from the muted-colored jackets and prairie shirt in the first act to a red knitted cardigan emblazoned with the word “PUNK” at the end. However, the real firecracker is designed by Stephanie Hsu as Jobu Tupaki. Costume designer Shirley Kurata creates the character in expensive baroque costumes straight from the eccentric pop star’s wardrobe. Its abundance reflects the strength and confusion of the young heroine as she attempts to reconcile her identity with traditional family expectations. The versatility with which Kurata composes these sets should come as no surprise considering her collaboration with Billie Eilish. Although no one is considering next year’s nominations right after the American Film Academy Awards, the costume designer might be a dark horse in the race for an Academy Award.
Although I don’t like culinary metaphors, it’s hard to find something more accurate in this case. “Everything at once” is like delicious bread with whatever your heart desires. Cowan and Scheinert, with their own idiosyncrasies, as if they were casually introducing new subjects. And while it seems impossible to combine it all into a coherent whole, the director’s swings and acrobatics end with a graceful tumble every time. But this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. After all, we’re dealing with people who, faced with the fame, glamor and big money that Disney has to offer, looked at their innermost needs and then said “no.” If you thought quitting co-development in the MCU was a life mistake for the creators of “Pocket Knife,” remember: There’s a world out there where the Kwan & Scheinert duo took the lead in “Loki”. The bad news is that it works outside of our perceptions.
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