D: Dan Kwan, Daniel Scheinert. Cast: Michelle Yeoh, Stephanie Hsu, Ke Huy Quan, Jenny Slate, Harry Shum Jr., James Hong, Jamie Lee Curtis. 15,139 minutes.
The multiverse is having a moment. I’m undecided as to whether the decision to pursue Marvel’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness With Everything everywhere at once — a film based on the same concept of parallel realities but made on a fraction of the budget — is foolhardy or brilliant. Either way, David showed Goliath how to do it. As Marvel executives huddle around conference tables and franchises weave together in a grand show of corporate synergy, here’s a movie that really gets what the infinite could look like.
Everything everywhere at once exists in the outer wilderness of imagination, in the realm of lucid dreaming and the frontier spaces. It bounces off familiar depictions of altered states, be it The Matrix or the fantastical films of Michel Gondry while feeling utterly unclassifiable. It’s both proudly childish, with a joke about butt plugs, and breathlessly sincere about the daily grind of intergenerational trauma. This odd mix of sonic extremes will already be familiar to fans of Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, aka The Daniels. They made their feature film debut after the success of their music video for DJ Snake and Lil Jon’s “Turn Down for What” – in which a guy rams step-first through several floors of an apartment building Swiss army man (2016) about the tender bond between a shipwreck survivor and a farting corpse, played by Daniel Radcliffe. With Everything everywhere at oncethese filmmakers went all out.
The story centers on an ordinary woman, Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh). In fact, she is most an ordinary woman who quietly runs a laundromat in Simi Valley, California, with her sweet, feisty husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan). Tensions are high. Evelyn’s father (James Hong) is visiting from China and has always looked down on her decision to marry Waymond and move to America. Their daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu) has brought along her friend Becky (Tallie Medel), already bitter in the knowledge that her mother will shove her back in the closet. Oh, and Evelyn is being audited. “With a stack of receipts, I can follow the ups and downs of your life,” warns her IRS agent, Deirdre Beaubeirdra (Jamie Lee Curtis, delightfully and maniacally mundane). “And it doesn’t look good.”
Then, out of the blue, a version of Waymond from somewhere called the “Alphaverse” confiscates her husband’s body to tell her that she is the key to saving all of reality. Of all the Evelyns out there, this Evelyn got it the worst she’s ever met. That means she’s the only one with untapped potential. What a beautiful way to look at the world – that a life of stasis is really a life of limitless possibilities. We meet some of the other Evelyns: a martial arts star who could easily be Yeoh himself (spot shots of the actor on the Crazy rich Asians red carpet), a dominatrix, a piñata, a Chinese opera singer, a hibachi chef and a woman with hot dogs for hands. Aided by the rush of Larkin Seiple’s cinematography and Paul Rogers’ editing, we shuffle through Evelyn’s like cards in a deck. There is an exquisitely constructed tribute to Wong Kar-Wais In the mood for lovealongside full blown fight scenes choreographed by Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings“Brian and Andy Le.
Going into the plot any further would spoil the fun, but the power is there Everything everywhereThe trick of is that all this elaborate chaos has a purpose. The Daniels have fully captured modern existence’s fractured sense of never being fully in charge of one’s life. Evelyn’s job, she was told, is to “bring us back to how it’s meant to be.” But that turns out to be an empty phrase. If all paths of life can coexist, who says one of them is right? It’s the kind of philosophy that needs to be tied to something powerful and absolute — that’s Yeoh asserting itself Everything everywhere at once like she could hold the whole movie in the palm of her hand.
It could be argued that in some ways, the actress has lived a few different lives herself: as the Hong Kong action star Heroic trio (1993); the Bond girl from Tomorrow never dies (1997); the romcom matriarch in Crazy rich Asians (2018). The Evelyns she plays are not parodies or costumes, but a set of emotions laid out on a gradient. To say this is a showcase of her talent almost feels like an understatement – the same goes for Quan, who starred in Short Round Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), data in The Goonies (1985) and then learned the hard lesson of how little Hollywood cares about the achievements of Asian actors. If the industry has truly changed for the better, this return to acting should be the first role of many.
Everything everywhere at once is a film of such diversity. Rich performances (Hong and Hsu should also be included here) collide with big ideas wrapped in a nuanced understanding of how we interact. And there are ass jokes. So many wonderful silly jokes. What more do you want?
Everything Everywhere All at Once opens in UK cinemas from Friday 13th May
https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/reviews/everything-everywhere-all-at-once-review-uk-b2076352.html Everything Everywhere All at Once Review: A brilliantly nuanced multiverse that leaves Marvel in the dust