Quick synopsis: When an interdimensional rupture unravels reality, 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.
This is a really hard review to write. It’s difficult to put into words exactly how I feel about this film, and what it means to me. I’ll try:
It’s a cunting masterpiece.
Crude, yes. But “masterpiece” does not do justice. “motherfucking masterpiece” also doesn’t seem strong enough to demonstrate my feelings for this. It’s astounding, a work of art. This is one of the best things I’ve ever witnessed. Sometimes my end of year awards are difficult. Last year, for example, it was genuinely difficult to decide between Mouthpiece and Come True for best film. Quite a few were similarly difficult. I’m saying this now, this will be nominated for A LOT in the end of year reviews, and will win a lot of them. It’s already pretty much a dead cert for best film. It’s over two and a half hours long, and my first thought when I left the cinema was “I can’t wait to see this again”.
Directed by duo called Daniels (Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert), who have a big history in music videos. You can tell this with how they direct some of the action sequences, there’s a flow to them which works perfectly. It’s not just “sound playing alongside music”, it’s part of the film. It works alongside the images to create a collective whole vision (apart from the scenes with the bagel, then it’s a hole vision. You know, because a bagel has a hole in it). The only feature film they’ve created before this was Swiss Army Man, which I’m yet to see but I’ve heard it’s very strange.
Now I’ve seen this, I can believe it. The story is weird, and there’s a strong sense of “look, just go with it” throughout the whole thing. But it actually makes sense, in a weird way. It’s written and directed in a way that even when it does go completely off the rails, you are able to follow it. Don’t know if you saw Mad Max: Fury Road, but that managed to do something great in that it was full of action, but because the action was nearly always in the centre of the frame, no matter how chaotic it got, you were able to follow it. This does the narrative equivalent of that and I love it so much.
All the performances are on point. Michelle Yeoh continues to be one of the greatest physical performers in the world today, she must be a dream for choreographers to work with as they don’t need to set up cameras so they can film each bit individually and edit them together. They can just set a camera up and let her do her thing. Her role was originally supposed to go to Jackie Chan, and that would have worked, but it would have been different. I’m not sure it would have been quite as good. The mother/daughter relationship is key to this film working, and I’m not sure it would have worked quite as well with a father/daughter one.
Speaking of the daughter, Stephanie Hsu absolutely nails the performance. Giving her the right amount of rebellion and need for acceptance. Certain plot points could you make you dislike her, but she’s played with enough vulnerability that you want what’s best for, while also recognising when she does awful things. Originally it was going to be Awkwafina. Now, I LOVE Awkwafina, she’s often the best part about most things she stars in. But again, I think it’s best it wasn’t her. I don’t think she would have been as effective as Hsu is.
It’s also good to see Ke Huy Quan back, best known for his role as Short Round in the Indiana Jones movies. Hopefully, this leads to a career resurgence for him as he has a really difficult role in this, it’s both physical and emotional. He has to make you believe he can beat the crap out of you, but also make you believe he’s the kindest, meekest person on the planet. He manages this, he’s talented enough that you can tell which universes version of him he’s currently playing, just by his body language. In a lesser film it would be the best performance, in this, he’s just a VERY VERY good part of an excellent ensemble.
As you can guess. I loved this. It had everything I want. It had laughs, it had heart (I heard genuine tears from fellow audience members many times), it had character, it had meta references, it had action, it had fingers made of hot dogs, it had a dildo being used as a weapon, it had glitter, it had bondage, it had pizza, it had Jenny Slate, it had Jamie Lee Curtis, it had a racoon controlling someone, it has despair, it has hope, it has everything.
All at once.