“Everything Everywhere All At Once”: There’s Joy in Dozens of Looks

Makeup department head Michelle Chung and hair department head Anissa E. Salazar discuss collaborating on playful and emotional looks for many different versions of the film's characters.
Stephanie Hsu as Jobu in "Everything Everywhere All At Once"
"Everything Everywhere All At Once"
Allyson Riggs

True to its title, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” performs approximately three conceptual triple-lutzes at any given moment. Most of these hinge on Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh), who is contacted by a parallel-universe version of her husband (Ke Huy Quan) to save not just her world but all worlds from a tyrant bent on ending existence. Said tyrant, Jobu Tupaki (Stephanie Hsu), also happens to be Evelyn’s daughter, Joy. Clear visual distinctions between all the different versions of the characters in all the different universes are crucial for us to track what’s going on in “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” But this goes double for Jobu/Joy, because Hsu has to be an antagonist who stands a little bit outside the film, ready to snap it like a twig, and a supporting character desperate (even if she doesn’t realize it) for some support from her family.

Hsu’s performance does a lot of the work here, but it’s enhanced by the film’s hair and makeup team, led by hair department head Anissa E. Salazar and makeup department head Michelle Chung. “[Jobu] was really like an extreme version of herself, so it was really important to show that there was such a big difference between [Jobu and Joy],” Chung told IndieWire. But Chung also treated Jobu a bit like Joy’s inner teenager, acting out and blotting security guards out of existence because of the extreme, zero-sum pressure of her emotions.

The different versions of Jobu offer slightly different articulations of hopelessness and nihilism eating away at Joy, even if Jobu’s vibe varies a little bit every time we see her. But contrast is always important. Joy dresses in dark jeans and flannels, with unstyled hair and natural makeup — if she’s wearing any makeup at all — that try to act as an invisibility cloak. Jobu’s looks are always loud, specific, and almost angrily full of color, drawing the eye with bold geometry through hair styling and face shaping — as in one of Chung’s favorite looks, where she turned Hsu’s face into a Picasso painting. The contrast makes it clear not just who Hsu is playing at any one moment, but that Jobu is an articulation of everything Joy cannot say.

Stephanie Hsu in "Everything Everywhere All At Once"
“Everything Everywhere All at Once”Allyson Riggs/A24

Salazar told IndieWire that bringing Jobu’s looks to life was an incredibly collaborative process. “Whether it was like a piece of clothing, of a texture or color fabric that Shirley had, or we knew there was gonna be like a certain light or a certain set decoration or just something little to give us an idea to then run with that,” she said. “This isn’t the kind of movie, like a period film, where most of those characters fit [a given aesthetic], and you can get the vibe from there. The looks had to be vivid to match those character traits [and] to carry the story.”

That kind of collaborative effort would’ve been impossible if “Everything Everywhere All at Once” didn’t make deliberate choices to bring the departments together. Chung and Salazar said they’d get a sense of what worlds they’d be stepping into on a given day based on a creative warm-up in the morning for everyone, led by directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert. While being trapped in the same IRS office building may have been stressful for the characters, everyone on the crew being together helped each department.

Stephanie Hsu as Jobu in "Everything Everywhere All At Once"
“Everything Everywhere All At Once”Allyson Riggs

“Everyone was in the same building at the same time,” Chung said. “So compared to different shoots where costumes might be like in another building or somewhere, we could literally run from room to room and be like, ‘Hey, I’m thinking about this. What do you think?’ Shirley would run over and be like, ‘I’m thinking about like putting pearls on Temple Jobu and then she would give me some pearls and I’d be, ‘Oh my God, maybe I’ll put pearls on her face,'”

That sense of play is important to all the characters, but especially to Jobu. She has incredible and terrifying universe-altering powers, yes, but also hair and makeup that is as emotional as the most emo teenager and as unhinged and playful as a little kid grabbing at the items laid out on a vanity. The inner child Salazar and Chung subtly bring out through some otherwise bold looks helps the audience to come to feel as Evelyn does: That Jobu should be defeated, but not killed; that Joy has to be saved.

The hair and makeup team on “Everything Everywhere” gets to have their cake and eat it, doing that sort of quiet emotional shift through some gloriously demented styling that includes everything from turning Yeoh into a Chinese opera star to making Hsu’s hair look like a bagel. “Michelle and I both started in horror films and indies, so we are already trained to do a quick makeup or a quick hair change,” Salazar said. “So it was really, really exciting to mimic a lot of these looks, whether it was gonna be that stunning Chinese opera look, or creating our own, like the K-pop, or Elvis Jobu — something glitz and glam and Vegas, you know? It was amazing to just have a lot of creativity to run around with. It’s every artist’s dream.”

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