everything everywhere all at once
starring: michelle yeoh, ke huy quan, stephanie hsu, and jamie lee curtis
REVIEWER: nick tonkin
When an interdimensional rupture unravels reality, an unlikely hero must channel her newfound powers to fight bizarre and bewildering dangers from the multiverse as the fate of the world hangs in the balance.
Everything Everywhere All at Once is the new film from writer/director duo Daniels (Daniel Scheinert and Dan Kwan) who last gave us 2016’s Swiss Army Man, although incredibly this doesn't suggest a true indication of the level of oddness to expect from their new project. Everything Everywhere All at Once is an exhausting film that doesn't give much in the way of respite for the audience over its 139 minute runtime; though the ride is absolutely worth it to experience Daniels' unique vision. This vision combined with the stellar performances from the entire cast, especially from lead Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan, and some really impressive work in editing, production design and visual effects leads to an unpredictable, phantasmagoric surrealist movie that is hard to fairly describe, but certainly captivating, endearing and thrilling.
There is so much more to this film that a plot synopsis can effectively communicate, but the story starts with Michelle Yeoh's Evelyn Wang, a Chinese-American woman who runs a laundromat with her husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan), currently struggling though an audit by the IRS after Evelyn files their taxes improperly. Tensions between Evelyn and both her daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu) and Waymond are coming to a head, and now Evelyn's demanding elderly father has arrived from China to live with his family.
However, Evelyn learns during a meeting with Deidre (Jamie Lee Curtis), the IRS officer investigating her case, that she must connect with alternate versions of herself from parallel realities in order to prevent their destruction at the hands of Jobu Tupaki and her black hole-like "everything bagel".
While watching Everything, I found myself trying classify it: is it the psychedelic elements of 2001: A Space Odyssey paired with David Lynch if he had a positive outlook and a proclivity for martial arts? Or as my colleague mused, is it informed by Chinese action comedies like Kung Fu Hustle? What was entirely evident after the credits rolled was that Daniels have created something striking and fresh, centred on a peculiar but amazing sense of humour. There are times, I'm sure, that you'll think a moment in the film was intended just for you; such is the sheer amount of ideas that are thrown at the audience. I'm so stoked to say that Everything somehow pulls this off, without falling into esoterica and limiting its appeal, in the way movies like Richard Kelly's Southland Tales or David Lynch's Inland Empire may have done.
Everything also greatly benefits from some wonderful performances, in particular Ke Huy Quan's Waymond. He will be familiar to viewers as Short Round from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and Data in The Goonies, though Everything marks an early entry into his return to acting after a near two decade absence. His Waymond is certainly the heart of the film, while Stephanie Hsu's Joy is the film's embodiment of it's exploration of nihilism (this movie goes places) and she portrays so well a character unmoored, struggling with purpose. Michelle Yeoh is excellent as Evelyn, initially a woman so focused on progression, she fails to realise she's been treading water, transformed into someone capable of solving her problems and helping others to do the same.
Everything Everywhere All at Once is a fantastic experience of a film, that while being exhausting is simultaneously captivating and endearing. It really is something novel, and certainly special.