Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022)


Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon) plays Evelyn Wang, a laundromat owner taking care of her elderly father (James Hong), quarreling with her daughter (Stephanie Hsu), and teetering on divorce with her husband (Ke Huy Quan). To top things off, she’s being audited by the IRS and stands to lose everything she owns. But while dealing with her auditor (Jamie Lee Curtis), Evelyn discovers she is only one of an infinite number of Evelyns across an infinite number of alternate universes, and a dangerous chaotic entity called Jobu Tupaki threatens to destroy them all — unless the Evelyn in this universe can connect with all the other Evelyns to save the multiverse.

Everything Everywhere All At Once is written and directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (credited as ‘Daniels’), whose previous film Swiss Army Man centered on the friendship between a suicidal castaway and a flatulent corpse. The Daniels’ singular spin is to conjure universal themes and sincere emotion out of absurdity. Their films feature characters in existential crises, struggling to find a reason to live when the world makes no sense to them anymore. I think Swiss Army Man is more successful in presenting this struggle, with fewer characters and a more concise screenplay. But Everything Everywhere All At Once is the more poignant of these sister films. Part of Evelyn’s journey is learning that she isn’t alone in her struggle. When she stops fighting with her family and begins to re-connect with them, she captures the secret weapon to resist Jobu Tupaki at the brink of annihilation.

I wish more of the film happened outside the IRS office building. Like alarm clocks and animal cruelty, I just don’t believe cubicle-filled offices should be allowed in movies. The film is also about twenty or thirty minutes too long. It spends more time than necessary to set up its internal logic. But it never loses steam. The fight sequences — against anyone Jobu Tupaki controls — are inventive and often very funny. The Daniels do not hesitate to involve dildos, butt plugs, and small dogs as weapons in their struggle to save the multiverse. In one alternate reality, everyone has hot dogs for fingers. We expect that to be a one-time joke, but the Daniels return to it over and over and over again, with each exploration funnier than the last. How do people with hot dogs for fingers play the piano? How do they make love? The Daniels go there.

I’ve always believed that those who make us laugh have the power to easily make us cry. The Daniels have validated this belief with two movies now. For emotional pull, their big guns are Michelle Yeoh and Stephanie Hsu. As mother and daughter, their relationship is the heart of the movie. Veteran actor James Hong (Big Trouble in Little China) may be a bit underutilized, but Ke Huy Quan is a major player. It’s been a long time since moviegoers saw him in The Goonies and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and it’s a delight to see him back, and in his biggest role to date. Composer Son Lux delivers remarkable work, bridging the gap between real and surreal, funny and emotional. With its inventive fight choreography and constant cross-cutting among multiple universes, the film should also get some serious consideration for film editing come Oscar time.

Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Actress (Yeoh), Best Supporting Actor (Quan), Best Supporting Actress (Curtis), Best Film Editing, Best Directors, Best Original Screenplay

Oscar Nominations: Best Song (“This is a Life”), Score, Costume Design, Supporting Actress (Hsu)

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