Everything, Everywhere, All at Once
Directed by “The Daniels” (Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert)
Starring: Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, Jaime Lee Curtis, James Hong
Studio franchise films have entered the “multiverse phase.” Spiderman: No Way Home was the top grosser last year, and the Dr. Strange sequel opened this past weekend. While the multiverse concept is a welcome excuse to fold in characters and actors from old movies, it hasn’t often been used for artistic exploration or as a thought experiment (save for the occasional Star Trek episode). Additionally, this movie marks the return of Ke Huy Yuan (Short Round from Temple of Doom, Data from The Goonies) after a 30-year gap. The movie currently sits at 96% on Rotten Tomatoes, 82% on Metacritic, and an 8.8 out of 10 on IMDb. According to Variety and Deadline Hollywood, Everything’s reception and indie box-office gross make it a shoo-in for Best Picture nominee next year.
May is AAPI awareness month, yesterday was Mother’s Day, and I haven’t reviewed a contemporary movie since March. Rather than doing three individual posts, I decided to hit everything, everywh— well, you get it.
Separately, I have had three text messages, all from different friend groups, demanding that I see it immediately. A situation like this is the very reason this blog was created.
Evelyn is under a lot of stress: her estranged father has flown in from China; her husband, Waymond, is serving her divorce papers; her daughter, Joy, wants to introduce Becky, Joy’s girlfriend, to Evelyn’s father; and, to top it all off, taxes for Evelyn and Waymond’s laundromat business are past due and contain suspicious expenses.
If only Evelyn’s life had been different. A different choice at a crucial moment could’ve made things better. Good news! A different version of Waymond suddenly possesses the Waymond we know and tells Evelyn that, of all the versions of Evelyn in all possible timelines and dimensions, the one to which WE’VE been introduced perfectly meets the conditions to save the multiverse.
The thing is, though, that Evelyn’s not particularly good at ANYTHING—not with her business, her hobbies, her family, and certainly not her taxes. There’s no way this can be true, right? Wait, her tax auditor didn’t act or walk like that before…
We should collectively skip nine months forward as a society to the 2023 Oscars and award this movie Best Picture right now. Save the pageantry, the prognosticating, and the “For Your Consideration” campaigns; it’s done. (UPDATE 3/12/23: HAHAHAHAHA! WHOO! I should’ve bet money on this! …I should’ve bet money on this.) This movie has everything, for every audience, all in one film. The fact that the narrative is rarely, if ever, confusing is a modern miracle. How a film can simultaneously be the inheritor of both The Matrix and The Joy Luck Club’s legacies smashes the brittle clay pot where I kept my expectations of what cinema can be.
So yes, unless health conditions or concerns prevent you, see it in a theater immediately.
Full disclosure, this movie concerns a Chinese-American family, so the parents switch languages frequently, often mid-sentence. The subtitles, however, were easy to read, so I never got lost. Secondly, this movie quite creatively explores what every possible iteration of the multiverse could be. Sometimes people bleed confetti while others have inconvenient appendages. The originality of the film’s logic and the unexpected connections Evelyn encounters throughout the numerous versions of the universe far outweigh any concerns viewers may have going in.
The independent nature of the film also adds a freedom to the proceedings. While the production is professional and oftentimes eye-popping, the visuals have a slightly unpolished feel to them because the filmmakers weren’t beholden to a studio conglomerate’s hand-wringing. While the tonal concern has a kernel of validity (I’ve watched plenty of “indie comedies” that were trying to copy the tone of Juno or Little Miss Sunshine), this film has its own signature concoction of humor that sets it apart from its genre.
Part of the movie’s humor comes from the novelty of seeing Michelle Yeoh and Jaime Lee Curtis have fun! Yes, Yeoh has been sassy before, but she’s more known for her cool demeanor in movies like Tomorrow Never Dies; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; and Crazy Rich Asians. Curtis, meanwhile, has starred in comedies from A Fish Called Wanda to Knives Out, but I’ve never seen her play a character this goofy. The silliness that she and Yeoh present on screen reaches, at times, the delirious heights of early ‘00s Will Ferrell movies. If these aspects don’t at least intrigue people, they may as well be living in a world populated solely by rocks.