EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE
(director/writer: Dan Kwan/Daniel Scheinert; cinematographer: Larkin Seiple; editor: Paul Rogers; music:Son Lux; cast: Michelle Yeoh (Evelyn Wang), Stephanie Hsu (Joy/Jobu Tupaki), Ke Huy Quan (Waymond), James Hong (Evelyn’s Elderly Father Gong Gong), Jamie Lee Curtis (Deirdre Beaubeirdra), Tallie Medel (Becky), Peter Banifaz (Alpha RV Officer), Audrey Wasilewski (Alpha RV Officer #2), Brian Le (Brian Le); Runtime: 132; MPAA Rating: R; producers; Dan Kwan, Mike Larocca, Anthony Russo, Joe Russo, Daniel Scheinert, Jonathan Wang: A24; 2022-USA-in English with Mandarin, Cantonese and English subtitles)
“Overstuffed, inventive and chaotic comedy/sci-fi action-adventure movie.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Co-directors and co-writers Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, known as the Daniels, also teamed up in 2016 to make the off-the-wall “Swiss Army Man.” The overstuffed, inventive and chaotic comedy/sci-fi action-adventure movie is about a flustered Chinese immigrant woman in America, Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh), trying to finish her taxes while agitated over her failing laundromat that she owns.
The middle-aged Evelyn also has other concerns. Her husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan, first lead role in 20 years) wants a divorce, the disapproving of her life choices by her aghast father, Gong Gong (James Hong, 93 years old), an adult lesbian daughter, Joy (Stephanie Hsu), who wants her new girlfriend Becky (Tallie Medel) to be part of her family. And what’s most immediate, she’s facing an impending audit from the IRS, thanks to an aggressive grumpy grey-haired IRS agent named Deirdre (Jamie Lee Curtis, terrifically funny).
Well so much for that reality, as we learn a version of her husband from another universe arrives to warn Evelyn of the impending destruction of everything within the multiverse. Evelyn is informed by him that she is the only version of herself capable of stopping it. To fight the mysterious figure that wants to destroy the universe, she’s given by him a headset that will allow her to tap into alternate versions of herself and she now possesses the abilities to save the multiverse and the ability to verse-jump (go from universe to universe).
We’re now in a universe accepted by comic books and the Daniels, which the filmmakers have no trouble going with, as they try to stylishly tell us how it’s possible to fit into a world with so many choices (never mind if the substance to their tale doesn’t add up). In these dimensions, we observe such outlandish things as where someone is controlled by a raccoon pulling his hair.
Though I usually like high-concept creative films, this time I must admit I felt lost in all its odd layers of storytelling and couldn’t emotionally get with such an incoherent film that just kept piling on absurdly illogical sci-fi things to its base plot until I ultimately had enough. But I found some funny bits and I relished the performance of Yeoh (she meets the demands of her off-beat character’s off-the-rails experiences). I thought that Stephanie Hsu gave a daunting performance where she takes on the role of the villain Jobu Tupaki and is convincing as her character calls for her to be either funny, tragic, or intimidating. Ke Huy Quan brings to the film a gentle performance. And, Jamie Lee Curtis played the IRS inspector in a rich, vulnerable and hammy way.
There are those who will probably laugh their way through it and not be too concerned with its reliance on comic book logic, while others will be thrilled by its amazing fight choreography scenes that are as good as the ones in the The Matrix. But there will probably be others like me that wished it made more sense.
Since I disliked much of it but still found it funny in parts, I give it a marginal recommendation for its creativity.
It played at the South By Southwest Film Festival.
REVIEWED ON 3/14/2022 GRADE: B-