Tiger mums give you the best part of the chicken: Michelle Yeoh

A still from Everything Everywhere All At Once starring (from left) Stephanie Hsu, Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan. PHOTO: MM2 ENTERTAINMENT

SINGAPORE - For the second time in recent memory, Malaysian actress Michelle Yeoh plays the Chinese mum from hell.

As sharp-tongued Hong Kong immigrant Evelyn Wang in the American action comedy Everything Everywhere All At Once, now showing in cinemas, she reduces her husband and daughter to nervous wrecks.

In the 2018 romantic comedy Crazy Rich Asians, she plays the status-conscious Singaporean dowager Eleanor Young, whose disapproval of her son's partner threatens to tear the family apart.

Yeoh, 59, is, understandably, on the side of Eleanor and Evelyn.

They are not evil - they just think differently, she says.

"It's how they express their love," she adds in an online interview with The Straits Times.

"I have a mother like that as well. They feel that if they compliment you, you might think you don't need to improve. If they say, 'You're gorgeous and smart', then what?" she says, pointing out that praise leads to complacency.

"So if they say, 'You should brush your hair' or 'You look a little bit fat', they are just trying to find a way to make you improve yourself. They don't know how to say 'I love you', they just give you the best part of the chicken," says Yeoh.

The Ipoh-born actress' career blossomed in the 1980s and 1990s in Hong Kong, where she established herself as an action heroine.

The Lee Ang wuxia movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) was a critical and commercial hit that give her prominence in Hollywood.

She can be seen in the Marvel superhero film Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings (2021), as a regular on the upcoming Avatar science-fiction sequels and on the buzzed-about comedy series American Born Chinese.

In Everything, Yeoh's Evelyn is the harried manager of a coin laundry, a business she runs with her husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan). Daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu), much to her chagrin, is a disappointment.

In the midst of a tax audit by the malicious Deirdre (Jamie Lee Curtis), Evelyn discovers that she has been enlisted to fight a being that can travel across alternative realities in a multiverse. Other Evelyns, including those with martial art skills, cross over into her reality.

The film is written and directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, collectively known as Daniels.

Kwan, who is in his 40s, has said on Twitter that the movie is his way of expressing his feelings about his parents.

Yeoh, whose partner is International Automobile Federation chief Jean Todt, 76, thinks that while her portrayals of the harsh Chinese mother might have caused unpleasant flashbacks for some viewers, many more have had their eyes opened.

"When I did Crazy Rich Asians, I had sons-in-law and daughters come up to me and say, 'Now I understand my mother-in-law a bit better', or 'Oh, that's where she's coming from.'

"The Daniels grew up with strong women. If you'd met Daniel Kwan's mum, you would understand right away: She is straightforward... let's get down to business."

Everything Everywhere All At Once is showing in cinemas.

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