Everything Everywhere All at Once was reviewed at the SXSW Film Festival, where it had its world premiere. It will be released in theaters on March 25, 2022.
The multiverse has officially invaded our pop culture landscape, and the idea of searching for characters from alternate realities is everywhere. Of course, when reality is so often dark, having the chance to escape it and get a glimpse of a different universe is always so appealing. Everything Everywhere All at Once finds fresh soil to plant a complex seed in this conceit, a fresh take on the trend that is truly bizarre, crude, heartfelt and honest. This is a work of art about gazing into the abyss, taking stock of the darkness around us, and choosing kindness over despair. It also features Michelle Yeoh in an alternate dimension where people have giant finger hot dogs, so there’s that too.
The opening scene introduces the Wangs as a happy Chinese-American family through a mirror, before jumping inside said mirror and revealing a deeply dissatisfied and broken family on the other side. Evelyn (Yeoh) is in an unhappy marriage with a stubbornly candid husband Waymond (the phenomenal Ke Huy Quan) who sees the bright side of every situation with frustration and convinced her to move to California and find a better life after her father. bossy and intimidating, Gong Gong (James Hong having the time of his life at just 93), forbade their marriage and disowned him. Unbeknownst to Evelyn, Waymond isn’t so happy either, as he’s hiding divorce papers which he’s trying to work up the courage to give to his wife. Last but not least, Evelyn’s daughter, Joy (Stephanie Hsu), is far from the epitome of her own name, with Evelyn’s lack of appreciation for Joy’s girlfriend revealing a deep well of under-discussed frustration. .
The straw that breaks the camel’s back in a life in the wrong hands (when she was born the doctor apologized to her father for having a baby girl) is that Evelyn’s laundromat is audited by the IRS and the human version of Roz from Monsters, Inc., played by Jamie Lee Curtis in so many make-up and prosthetic jobs she could rival The Penguin by Colin Farrell. But the audit is interrupted by an urgent call to Evelyn to save the entire multiverse from annihilation by tapping into the skills of her more accomplished alternate selves. Why is this Evelyn the one who saved them all? Because she’s literally the least fulfilled, biggest blank slate of them all; a woman who has failed in every hobby, dream, and goal she has ever attempted.
Yeoh gives what could very well be the best performance of his career so far as a character going through a deep midlife crisis. Yeoh not only does a wonderful job portraying the emptiness of Evelyn’s main life, but she makes each of her other selves feel unique yet recognizable in the various choices they’ve made. Everything Everywhere All at Once strongly recognizes that once you start thinking about those roads not taken, once you take everything in your life, everywhere you go, all at once, there is no no choice but to realize how useless it all is. It’s a movie that feels uniquely made by millennials watching the world around them crumble; it’s a painful irony that she’s coming out not just in the midst of a pandemic, but as global political strife escalates. It’s a fitting coincidence for the specific time period we’re in, even though the filmmakers stumbled upon it by accident – it’s about thinking things can change for the better, while realizing that trying to changing the dark and hopeless future that awaits us is futile. Since Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia, no film has so overwhelmingly and accurately portrayed clinical depression and the feeling of just wanting to leap into the abyss. And yet, this film is anything but hopeless. Rather, he comes out the other side with a renewed sense of hope, as he chooses kindness and decency over despair.
Of course, this is a film by the Daniels, a directorial duo who made their feature film debut with a film about a farting corpse whose dick served as a compass – there was simply no way it was a complete failure. Instead, Everything Everywhere All at Once is also absolutely exhilarating and gross, and full of jaw-dropping action. The Daniels (Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert) are adept at using toilet humor to convey deep and complex ideas, and this film is full of them. It’s a movie where the IRS building is full of dildo-shaped trophies it hands out to its employees, where jokes about Disney’s Ratatouille can push the plot forward, and a universe where people with hot dogs for their fingers can lead to one of the most touching romantic scenes ever put in a sci-fi action movie.
And don’t get me wrong, this East an action movie – one of the best in years. Despite over two hours of operation, it never stops moving, the camera acting as an extension of Evelyn’s undiagnosed ADHD, always frantic and kinetic. By tapping into her alternate self, Evelyn not only struggles with how her life has turned out, but also gains a Millennial Actress-like a view of his life in “what if” chapters that celebrate Yeoh’s incredible career. The action is never boring or repetitive as we transition from a version of Evelyn who is a martial arts expert to an opera singer, a chef and even a sign twirler, with the Daniels finding unique situations to put every bizarre skill to deadly use. .
Everything Everywhere, All At Once also serves as a celebration of Asian cinema as a whole, with great tributes to everyone from Wong Kar-Wai to Stephen Chow and Jackie Chan, and even a little Satoshi Kon thrown in for good measure. . The result, a film that truly feels like it encompasses everything, everywhere, all at once, is monumental. It’s like when The Matrix took all the fears and ideas of its time and turned them into a sleek action movie with big thoughts.
That everything, everywhere, all at once is produced by previous Marvel stalwarts, the Russo Brothers, and is coming out as Spider-Man: No Coming Home still rocking in theaters, is ironic, because at a fraction of its budget, this movie is an infinitely better multiverse production than any superhero movie has ever come close. While the idea of a multiverse is exciting, television and film so far have mostly focused on its wild, large-scale possibilities. But the Daniels manage to both explore the broader implications of this concept on the galactic brain, while telling a rather intimate story of feeling that your life is going nowhere and the world is going to hell, all the while deciding to embrace the small moments of joy. and just be kinder to those around you. It’s a film that could only be made now, a film that encompasses everything, but can be enjoyed and understood everywhere, all at once.