Everything Everywhere All at Once is a collective burst of creative energy. Funny and exhilarating, it’s the first great film of 2022.
This review of the film Everything Everywhere All at Once does contain mild spoilers.
There are very few film experiences that rival Everything Everywhere All at Once. It may be one of the most original movies I have ever seen.; a genuinely bonkers, exhilarating, awe-inspiring, and mindbending filmgoing experience. It leaves you breathless from sheer creativity while tugging at your heartstrings. The cast, which includes the great Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, and Jamie Lee Curtis, are sensational. The Daniels’ film is the first great one of 2022.
Do you want a taste? Or even challenge me for good measure? Sure, go right ahead. Imagine a film where an alternate universe with men and women has hotdogs for fingers. Even one where “Racoontouille” replaces Ratatouille. A world where Short Round unstraps his fanny pack to bitch slap and kick your a*s for good measure. While you are at it, let’s have Jenny Slate and her Silky Terrier rip you to shreds by tethering her pooch with their belt like a ravenous chain mace. Even an alternate world that uses feet for beautiful and poignant tasks like playing the piano while wiping away a single tear with a big toe. People are even blown up into confetti to keep the good times rolling.
I do not want to ruin too much of Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s (Swiss Army Man) second feature film together. Even at a whopping 140 minutes, the co-writing and directing team’s film never feels too long or unwelcome. The plot starts simple enough. You have two Chinese immigrants, the critical Evelyn (Yeoh) and the empathetic Waymond (Quan), who struggle to take care of business and are under attack by a strict IRS agent (Curtis). If they don’t straighten out their tax debt, their laundromat will be shut down. Evelyn is also shielding their daughter, Joy (Stephanie Hsu), from her father (James Hong). Why? It’s a generational and cultural disconnect. Evelyn fears that he will not approve of his granddaughter being a lesbian.
But how does it go from an immigrant couple living the American “dream” to an unhinged multiverse with slap fights with Oscar Meyer fingers and Yeoh spanking a perverted government yuppie to end hate? While jumping from and through webs of alternative universes? The Daniels’ script plays out like a Charlie Kaufman hit of ecstasy with euphoric effects. A blend and bend of genres of comedy, science fiction, thriller, and martial arts action that allow characters to “jump” and utilize different timelines where the same person, this being Yeoh’s Evelyn, possesses various skills acquired from different paths she has taken. How? By doing something out of the ordinary from their character. Like, in Evelyn’s case, telling someone they love them. She would rather be critical, like with her daughter.
Everything Everywhere All at Once balances and blends genres in the same way it folds in underlying themes. You have themes of a couple growing apart and looking back at their lives with regret while rediscovering love and life. However, the film’s central dynamic is of Evelyn and Joy drifting apart and trying desperately to come back together. You can even argue that this is all a metaphor for first-generation immigrants in the United States. Those who their parents use to connect to the outside world. And one where Evelyn is trying to keep her daughter from drifting too far, culturally, to modern American life.
You should be paying particular attention to the cast here. Yeoh marvels audiences worldwide with her gift of action, comedy, and surprising depth in the tiniest of scenes. I will have to admit that Curtis is unrecognizable in her role by playing the IRS Deirdre, playing her character so sternly, and showing a softer, tender side in poignant alternate worlds. Then there is Quan. The star of some of my favorite films growing up as a child actor in the ’80s may have given a career extending and even defining turn here. After acting in last year’s family adventure film, Finding ‘Ohana, he is so good here, from action to comedy, future roles should not be a problem anymore.
Does it all make sense? It can, and I’m leaving details out that become clear (and anything I mentioned you have seen in the trailer). Yet, the Daniels’ Everything Everywhere All at Once is just an electrifying experience that’s a collective burst of creative energy. It will be a film that will have you saying to yourself that you have never seen anything quite like it, and many will try to duplicate it for years to come.