Perhaps the strangest thing about it Everything everywhere at oncea film in which a notable plot point involves riffs 2001: A Space Odyssey To explain an alternate reality where humans evolved hot dogs for fingers, sometimes it is not feel so weird Directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, it sits at the crossroads of a frenetic music video marathon, a slapstick martial arts comedy, and a surrealistic sci-fi pastiche. But it’s anchored in serious family drama, heightened by a string of great performances, most notably from leading lady Michelle Yeoh.
There’s a lot going on inside Everything everywhere, but the essence is simple. Evelyn Wang (Yeoh) is the stressed-out owner of a broken laundromat and a chaotic, unfulfilling life. Her seemingly mild-mannered husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan) has served her divorce papers, her constantly demanding father (James Hong) is in declining health, and her daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu) is frustrated by Evelyn’s own snippy disapproval. A ruthless IRS employee named Deirdre Beaubeirdra (Jamie Lee Curtis) scrutinizes her, among countless other decisions, to claim a karaoke machine as a tax expense.
Then, as Evelyn makes a final attempt to save herself from the business, Waymond’s body is suddenly possessed by a counterpart from one of the near-infinite alternate realities. He tells her that she is the only person who can save the multiverse from a reality-shattering threat. And she still has to pay her taxes.
As Alt-Waymond acknowledges, the precise mechanics of the multiverse are complex and not always logical. “Verse Jumpers” can use earbuds to puppet the bodies of their alternate selves, and they can osmosis abilities of counterparts in other worlds, performing crucial actions that change their life paths. (For inexplicable reasons, most of these tasks are painful or disgusting, such as getting paper cuts or eating lip balm.) The process opens up a slight psychic connection between counterparts and, for verse jumpers who push themselves too far, that range of infinity grasping opportunities can lead to a devastating existential crisis.
The setup allows Kwan and Scheinert to switch between a variety of mini-narratives and a truly dizzying array of colorful costume changes, and it justifies a series of eccentric martial arts sequences that essentially work on dream logic. Everything is everywhere Fight scenes are more entertaining, creative, and better filmed than many full-fledged action movies, including those from the very cinematic franchises they clearly draw on. (They’re a lot more fun than almost anything in the Russo brothers’ Marvel movies, who served as producers here.)
Yeoh’s main self is a utterly deranged Everywoman who can suddenly pull off incredible acrobatic feats tempered by goofy physical comedy, while her other personal flaunts her effortless charisma. Quan fluidly switches between his hapless Prime Universe self and his hyper-competent alter ego, with his tone and body language switching in a split second. Even Curtis, introduced as a derogatory bureaucrat, takes a menacing turn in one of her many roles.
Everything everywhere is full of intricate connections and Chekhov’s canons that connect on an aesthetic rather than a narrative level. It constantly loops back to create extended multiverse vignettes from small details earlier in the film, including jokes, ranging from the mild to the fairly blatant. (This is a good time to mention that Kwan and Scheinert also directed Swiss army mana movie that starred Daniel Radcliffe as the bloated corpse.) Some of those callbacks feel inconsequential, and that’s based on a Q&A after the film’s SXSW premiere after At least one subplot was left on the cutting room floor. But they help sell the film’s humor by spinning cinematic references and throwaway gags – what if you say, everything on a bagel, man – in dead scenes delivered with visual flair.
The dramatic elements still don’t always go together. Everything is everywhere Sci-fi sequences can be written as if marking the time between absurdities, peppered with explanatory dialogue that doesn’t match the more compelling and naturalistic exchanges elsewhere. The screenplay is riddled with monologues about life and humanity that sound fine on their own, but are spun around just as abruptly as the film’s costumes, asserting character motivations that weren’t well established up to that moment.
Despite this, the relationship between Evelyn, Joy, Waymond and (unexpectedly) Deirdre builds into something sweet that will last just a hair away from being sweet. Everything is everywhere Individual personas are, for the most part, archetypes, albeit archetypes not often seen in mainstream science fiction films. But the film treats them as complementary facets of a single complicated person rather than a plethora of separate entities. There’s no cheap ambiguity as to whether any of the film’s events take place – the multiverse definitely exists, and it contains people whose fingers are definitely hot dogs – but its a number of worlds have the vibe of fantasies that highlight aspects of the characters’ core selves , which makes them more than gimmicks or weirdos for their own sake.
This is probably less due to the script than to the actors, who bring consistency to the now nonsensical scenarios. Quan endows Waymond with an resilient vulnerability that shows itself even when he’s dragging Evelyn through the multiverse. While Hsu as her original universe character gets less screen time, as one of Joy’s alter egos, she balances being viciously nihilistic and hopelessly lost. Deirdre is rightfully mean, but like many true jerks, capable of kindness and affection.
And in a film that conjures up countless previous films about disaffected losers who discover they are secret heroes, Yeoh offers a poignant and compelling take on the trope. Your protagonist is disappointed in life but still a functioning, mature human being surrounded by people who are flawed but ultimately decent. Evelyn’s immersion in the multiverse is anticipated by the way she navigates her multi-generational and multilingual family, her fast-paced dialogue alternating between Mandarin, Cantonese and English. One of Everything is everywhere Running jokes is that the protagonist is literally the least talented version of herself, but the gaps between Evelyn’s self never seem staggering – you can believe a few choices separate a struggling laundromat owner from a master chef or opera singer.
For all the bizarre stuff that gets thrown in everything everywhere, Arguably Kwan and Scheinert’s riskiest move is selecting a nearly 140-minute runtime for a comedy based on intentional tonal whiplash, a potentially polarizing humor style, and an exhausting pacing. Everything everywhere is a giant tangled ball of yarn from a movie, and if it doesn’t work for you, that feeling is going to last for a very, very long time. If it does Work, but it might just be one of the most charmingly ridiculous movies you’ll see this year.
Everything everywhere at once Debut in theaters March 25th