My mom offered to take me to the Michelle Yeoh film, which I jumped at. Not only did I want to see it, I am having trouble unwinding when I’m not at work. I need to be extremely distracted to get out of the relentless cycle of to do lists that wrack my mind. The quantity of work that needs to get done is overwhelming. I liken it to standing in front of a trembling dam holding back an ocean just ready to rush and run you over.
Mom had heard on a podcast that it was for older people. Not so. It is an extremely stylized take on a middle-aged, immigrant mom who’s got lots of regular life pressure, but in the middle of a meeting at the IRS, gets recruited to rescue a plague on the multiverse. There are multiple relationships in pain in the A story line – mother/daughter, husband/wife, mother/her father. These folks are a mess.
This is not a film for the Baby Boomer generation. Is it even a film for Gen Xers? Depends. I have friends (one) who said she needed go to take a breather from it – there is so much visual stimuli, costume changes, fight scenes, storylines, and two dildos. Mom walked out after one hour.
I loved it. I thought the script was really tight with its A story line, before it introduced B story line and multiple tangents that came together. You get so much insight into the state of all the primary relationships within ten minutes in just cutaways. That’s some efficient storytelling.
The fight scenes – and the acting they required – are remarkable. I love all martial arts films so they didn’t lose me the way they lost my mom. I admired the choreography and the way the actors moved so smoothly (I mean, god, the stretching alone deserves like an Oscar. Is there an Oscar for stretching? Of course not). And is there anyone but Michelle Yeoh who could play that part? (It was originally pitched to Jackie Chan, but honestly, I don’t think anyone else could handle the physical and emotional demands of the part.)
I am mixed about her acting. I don’t love it. I think I really like the American school of acting where it’s over the top and the acting choices at the top of the scene are crystal clear. But that’s not Michelle Yeoh’s jam. She looks uncomfortable to me when I see her in films – however, her gifts in moving are totally deserving of celebration and it is part of acting for shizz – and not only that, the woman is (I think) close to 60, yet moves like a dream, as if she posses a supple, flexible twenty-something machine and she looks strong.
She has one scene where her character accesses martial arts expertise for the first time – her body moves like an expert, while her face has to convey the shock of what her body can do. That’s no mean acting feat. All the Asian characters speak a mix of English and Chinese – that is how people who are bilingual communicate, but dude, if you didn’t grow up like that, how on earth can you pull that off? There is so much about acting that is technical.
But all that granular analysis aside (sorry, bad habit, whenever I want to figure something out), I liked the story. To my surprise, I didn’t relate to the daughter character, but the mother. The mother’s constant criticism has shaped that daughter into being a sad person – that constant barrage of not-good-enough feedback can make you into someone who is permanently defeated. (Luckily, I have healed parts of that my experience for myself and Mom and I can have other colors to our relationship – though I panicked that I would do that to my own daughter. I like went home and apologized in advance.)
The person I related to was the Michelle Yeoh character, the put-upon, stressed-out mother, who is so in the weeds with the vagaries and demands of daily life, that she has no mental/emotional real estate to be present and notice that she hurts her husband and daughter, and is still caught in the emotional trap of trying to please her father.
She starts the movie running around trying to throw a party, cook food for her father, and review receipts for the IRS. She’s absolutely like the rabbit character in Alice in Wonderland, who is constantly feeling late.
Oh no, I thought. That’s me. I’m that. How am I going to detach myself to these relentless, daily tasks breathing down my neck and be present? And then, what’s weird, is the whole thing reminded me of my dad. I bawled for a good half of the film. These missed connections, the speed of life – I mean, I think I was pretty present with dad for the most part, but life still whips by.
Anyway, I liked the film. I thought it was a tremendous work of art, and I appreciated how hard everyone worked on it. At the same time, no way should my mom gone and she should have left earlier. Ha Ha.