With a title like Everything Everywhere All At Once, one cannot expect a tidy movie where everything is in place and an ending tied with a big red bow. It’s a movie perfectly timed for its release… tax season is upon us and everyone is into the multiverse. The two completely unrelated things are somehow mixed together here as Michelle Yeoh plays a middle-aged Chinese immigrant who’s struggling to finish her taxes.
Evelyn and her husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan) run a laundromat and at the start of the movie, she’s utterly overwhelmed by all the tax papers and a heap of receipts piled up on her dining table. I actually have an auntie who’s not the tidiest person in the world and her house kind of reminds me of Evelyn’s where every single corner is filled with stuff.
Tax is not the only thing stressing her out. Her marriage isn’t exactly rosy, and she’s stressed out about her elderly dad who’s coming to visit (the legendary James Hong). On top of that, her gay daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu) brings her girlfriend to introduce to her grandpa. Now, no matter what ethnic background you come from, I’m sure one can relate to a mother’s worry about how to handle such a scenario.
The main reason I was curious about this movie is Michelle Yeoh and in the end, she remains the reason the movie didn’t completely fall apart under all chaotic sequences that practically assault your senses from start to finish. I guess Evelyn’s messy house is a harbinger of what’s to come in the movie.
I’m not too clear about how the multiverse theory actually works in the movie. The alternate version of Waymond tries to explain things to Evelyn but all the info comes at you so fast as he’s always on the run. One thing for sure, he’s convinced Evelyn is the one who could save the entire multiverse from an ominous villain called Jobu Tupaki. There are various references (whether it’s a jibe or homage is up to the viewers) to all kinds of pop references from MCU, Star Wars to Ratatouille. Speaking of MCU, the Russos are the exec producers of this movie.
This is the first time I saw a movie Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, as The Daniels, came to prominence thanks to Swiss Army Man. I haven’t seen that movie yet but the premise sounds really, really weird. Well, this one turns out to be in the same realm, but you could say the multiverse premise seems to increase its bizarre level tenfold. It’s a crazy, trippy, action-packed journey through time and space where excess is a virtue, especially when thrown together all at once at supersonic speed.
Despite the seemingly convoluted mess and frenetic action, the core of the story is about family and living the best life… now what one considers ‘best’ may be different after one goes through a roller-coaster series of events.
I love the ensemble cast, led by Yeoh playing multiple roles that she tackles with aplomb. I often see Yeoh in roles where she’s wise, calm, and always in control. It’s quite thrilling to see her in such a role where she could barely keep things together that gets her to flex her comedic muscles. She’s simply spectacular in this movie. Quan, who I’m not as familiar with apart from his role in Indiana Jones 2, is nicely paired with Yeoh as she goes through multiple universes and plays an alternate version of themselves.
Jamie Lee Curtis is pretty hilarious as the tax auditor. Like most of the actors here, she gets to play different roles that flex her acting muscles. Both actresses are still extremely fit to pull off all the physical demands the role requires, and they work wonderfully together. Jenny Slate and Harry Shum Jr. also have some memorable comedic scenes.
Now, I have to admit I don’t always find the movie enjoyable and the frenetic action and the constant zip-zapping of the different versions of the characters is a bit too much for my brain. Some of the scenes are downright insane, esp. when the characters have to follow specific, often bizarre instructions in order to ‘jump’ to a different realm. I won’t spoil it for you but let’s just say some of them are pretty graphic and tasteless.
I truly welcome the heartfelt, quieter moments, such as when Evelyn and Waymond are occupying their movie star identities. There’s a bit of influence of the elegant In The Mood For Love which is such a welcome respite from the manic energy of most of the movie. The ‘rocks’ scene is also one of my favorite moments in the movie that’s hilarious as well as moving.
I was more enamored by Michelle Yeoh than the movie itself. There’s a sensory overload from the myriads of ideas being erratically thrown together that the familial and philosophical themes often get lost amidst the chaos. That said, I applaud the originality of the filmmakers’ vision and the inventive filmmaking style. It’s rare to see something that’s unlike anything you’ve seen before, since most films these days are remakes, sequels, or based on an existing IP. That alone is quite a feat, so all things considered, Everything Everywhere All At Once is a remarkable achievement from The Daniels.
Have you seen Everything Everywhere All At Once? Well, what did YOU think?