By Sean Cabot
Daniel Kwan and Dan Scheinert’s “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” is every turn of phrase meant to indicate weirdness that you’ve ever heard. It’s almost beyond any attempt at description, which makes my job here particularly hard.
I fielded several other candidates to review instead of it, including “Morbius,” which I knew was probably terrible, and “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” which, like the first movie, is surprisingly good.
However, the challenge of describing a movie this odd is too invigorating to pass up, so here I am.
The film follows Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh), a laundromat owner being pulled among organizing a community Chinese New Years’ Party, a visit from her father (James Hong), and an impending audit.
If that wasn’t enough, her daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu) is growing distant from her after having come out as lesbian, and her husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan) is trying to work up the guts to ask her for a divorce.
It’s all quite a lot on its own, but about 20 minutes into the film, Waymond is suddenly possessed by an alternate version of himself who tells Evelyn that she’s the only hope of saving the entire multiverse. To accomplish this, he outfits her with a device that allows her to access the memories and skills of various alternate versions of herself.
The Daniels have, in effect, made an arthouse version of a currently emerging blockbuster trend – multiverse movies, just as the trend is getting into full swing with the upcoming “Doctor Strange” sequel and the “Flash” movie that will likely suck.
That’s definitely a weird pitch, and it’s somehow even stranger than what I’ve described so far. But perhaps the most surprising thing about the story is that despite this sudden escalation in stakes, the problems Evelyn faces in the first 20 minutes are still very much the emotional core of it all.
Backing this up are some truly superb performances from the main cast. Yeoh – a legend in her own right, is right at home with the material, and Quan, most famous for his role as Short Round in “Temple of Doom,” is so good that you’d never know he’d been on an acting sabbatical for 20 years.
The entire cast also plays multiple versions of their characters in accordance with the multiverse
premise, and they all pull it off effortlessly. And to top it off, they absolutely kill all of the immaculately shot fight scenes.
But spectacle is one thing – how good is the story? Does it have the emotional depth required to fully realize this concept?
The short answer is yes – the shifts between gonzo sci-H action blockbuster and low-key emotional drama are jarring at first, but coalesce into a steady rhythm seamlessly by the end. For a movie about various alternate universes and jumping between them, the plot is actually pretty easy to follow.
Thematically speaking, the film asks what it means to be cognizant of an infinite number of realities wherein the concepts of meaning and consequences seem to fade away entirely. Evelyn, who might very well be the worst version of herself among all of them, must reckon with the idea that all of her life choices may have been the wrong choices.
And the ultimate message ends up being that the best we can do is try to practice kindness and not just look at what could have been for ourselves, but for others. While it’s far from the most complex message, it lands well all the same.
Granted the film might be too weird for a lot of people, and its jokes don’t always land, but in the big picture none of it amounts to substantial flaws.
“Everything Everywhere All at Once” is definitely not for everyone, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t think everyone should see it.
A-, an eye-opening experience