The year has already served up an instant cinematic classic.
Everything Everywhere All at Once is one of those movies that made me, from beginning to end, keep thinking: “I can’t believe I’m actually seeing this.” It’s a masterpiece in filmmaking from the directorial/writing duo of Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert.
It joins masterworks like Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life, Harold Ramis’ Groundhog Day, Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain and David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive as films that can be described as “about everything.” Its title is an accurate encapsulation of the story it tells.
Michelle Yeoh is full-on awesome as Evelyn Wang, a laundromat owner trying to weather tax problems and a humdrum marriage to her husband, Wayman (Ke Huy Quan, aka Short Round from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom—the mighty sidekick!). While visiting with an especially malevolent IRS agent (Jamie Lee Curtis), Evelyn has an existential crisis that opens up portals to all of the other versions of herself in the universe.
In those other versions, she’s everything from a pizza-sign spinner to a Hollywood actress. The movie essentially says Evelyn could’ve been Michelle Yeoh had she gone right instead of left at one point. Mind-benders like that take Everything Everywhere beyond standard sci-fi action. It’s a little confusing at first, but once the intention firmly kicks in and becomes apparent, it’s mind-blowing.
At its core, the movie tells the story of a typical mom having troubles with her husband and daughter (Joy Wang). Yet it is also … well, about everything, and it somehow manages to leave you with the feeling that you just saw a movie that captures everything about human existence in 139 minutes. (Last week in this space, we discussed how Michael Bay couldn’t tell a cohesive story about one ambulance ride in 136 minutes.)
Much like last year’s Spider-Man movie and this year’s upcoming Doctor Strange vehicle, Everything Everywhere also has fun with the concept of the multiverse—other versions of yourself running around in thousands of variations of your life. The theory: Had you made even the slightest adjustment on the course you’ve been on until this day, your live could’ve turned out completely different. This movie turns all of that into a hilarious ride.
Paul Rogers, the film’s editor, deserves extra credit for having this all make sense. Rogers essentially came out of nowhere with this effort, with his most notable prior project being 10 episodes of The Eric Andre Show, according to IMDb. Now that I think about it, perhaps hanging around with the gloriously insane Eric Andre is a good primer for a movie about one’s place in the universe.
The film often unfolds rapidly as Evelyn branches out into her other personalities, yet it never veers off course or feels like a single second of screen time is wasted. Moments that feel random at first eventually make complete sense. Somehow, bagels prove to be essential.
Yeoh, who doesn’t get enough credit for her fantastic body of work, gets a movie that deserves her—and she delivers career-best work in what also works as an homage to all that she has done, and every character she has ever played. Quan, basically absent from films for decades, is so good here that it’s like he never took a break—and yes, there are moments when his voice squeaks just right where Short Round peaks out. Perhaps it isn’t too late to get him into that Indiana Jones sequel?
The film was produced by A24, purveyors of some of the finest cinema in recent years. Seeing A24 attached to a movie is almost a guarantee for some sort of a good time. But Everything Everywhere All at Once is more than a good time … it’s everything!
Everywhere All at Once is playing at theaters across the valley.