EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE – Review
Michelle Yeoh gives a tour-de-force performance in the wildly creative EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE, as a weary middle-aged laundromat owner whose marriage is failing, business is being audited by the IRS and daughter is becoming estranged – and is the only person who can save the multiverse. The genre-bending, entertaining, crazy EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE actually is all about everything, as Mrs Wang (Yeoh) – Evelyn – confronts her life, choices and everything about life, as she bounces from alternate universe to alternate universe. Michelle Yeoh is the driving force behind this crazy, hard-to-categorize film that is part comedy, mind-bending sci-fi adventure, visual effects extravaganza, martial arts action-er, and family drama. Yeoh is its dazzling star, as this unlikely heroine.
Mrs. Wang’s (Yeoh) American dream hasn’t worked out. She had big dreams when she married Waymond Wang (Ke Huy Quan) against her parents wishes and ran off to America. Buying their own business, a laundromat, was supposed to be a ticket to prosperity. Now Mrs. Yang feels all the work falls on her, handling the business and the books while her silly, impractical husband pastes googly eyes on everything and her daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu) is often off with her non-Chinese girlfriend Becky (Tallie Medel). Mrs. Wang is preparing for a birthday party for her elderly, widowed, wheelchair-bound father Gong Gong (a wonderful James Hong), who lives with her but still scolds her about marrying against his wishes. On top of it all, Mrs. Wang has an appointment with stern IRS agent Deirdre Beaubeirdra (an unrecognizable Jamie Lee Curtis) who is auditing the Wangs’ business. On her way to the appointment, something very strange happens to Evelyn Wang: she is contacted by a visitor from a parallel universe, who begs for her help to save the multiverse. The visitor looks just like her husband but isn’t him, and hands her an earbud that is a way to blip between universes, where she has very different lives.
Sounds like a mental break, doesn’t it? And the fact that this movie does not start out in the realm of superheroes feeds that skeptical sensation, but it also actually adds to the intrigue of the story as we go down this rabbit hole. Much of the action takes place in the IRS office, in various universes, but Evelyn also gets to sample what her life would be like in other worlds, if she has followed another life path.
In one of the weirder universes, everyone has long fingers that look like hot dogs, and in another, Evelyn is a famous performer. There are common elements to the universes, like a Bollywood movie on the TV and a RATATOUILLE running joke, Evelyn’s life is very different, for better or worse. All the while, the threat to all existence is pressing in, a threat in the form of a bagel with everything – literally everything.
EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE feels somewhat like a cross between a Charlie Kaufman and a Jackie Chan film, with a lot of other things thrown in. This film asks some deep philosophical questions and puts us in a mind-twisting world, but also features comedy, marital arts, romance, and family drama, all with an unlikely heroine forced into a situation where she must do extraordinary things. This wild yet gripping tale, which is divided into three chapters, was directed and written by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, known collectively as the Daniels.
What pulls it all together is Michelle Yeoh’s remarkable performance. It is a rare thing to see a middle-aged ordinary woman at the center of a movie, but Yeoh makes the most of the opportunity to break preconceived ideas. At first, Evelyn Yang is angry and exhausted, frustrated with her life and full of regrets, yet seeing no way out. The visitor from the older world looks like her husband but is clearly not, an experience Evelyn finds disconcerting to say the least. In other universes, Evelyn has different skills and as she flips between them and battles adversaries, her confidence grows. It gives Yeoh a chance to play multiple roles at once and gives the audience the chance to see her display her famous physical skills.
Jamie Lee Curtis is hilarious as the stern IRS agent who becomes a murderous adversary in an alternate universe. She leads a pack of fighters are bent to preventing Evelyn from saving the multiverses and are allied with a shadowy villain called Jobu Tupaki. Later, we see another side to her because nothing and no one is simple in this film.
This wild tale is as visually dazzling as its gifted star Michelle Yeoh. Some of the worlds are as surreal and colorful as a vivid dream or crazy as an acid trip, and as detailed as Tibetan mandala. Flipping between worlds is handled brilliantly, spinning is around as Yeoh’s character is but landing us on our feet long enough to follow the action.
At once silly and serious, this film is endlessly inventive and creative. The visual effects are a delight, and often played with a tongue-in-cheek humor, but directors Kwan and Scheinert keep us from descending into confusion. The pacing is frenetic, and relentless, and dividing the tale into chapters gives the audience a brief moment to catch their collective breath. We never know what twist is headed our way, but it is a delightful wild ride.
The film is an impressive accomplishment but such an enjoyable film that some audiences may not quite realize that, because they are so swept up in its wild ride. This is the rare kind of film with the potential to wow both critics and audiences, at least for anyone with any taste for fantasy or science fiction at all.
EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE opens in theaters on Friday, Apr. 8.
RATING: 4 out of 4 stars