Where to begin? Is there even a "beginning" or an "end," or are we all just in a meaningless construct of space and time? How would my life change if the next word I typed was fas;fljasdlfkjaetpieejpwaoifqwpeof. Did I just smash away at my keyboard for no reason or did that somehow, someway divert the course of my life? Is there an alternate reality where I started this review a different way, didn't review the film at all, or wasn't able to type it because I was a rock or perhaps my hands were made out of hot dogs?
Believe it or not, these are all relevant questions in the audaciously bonkers new sci-fi/action/adventure multi-verse film, "Everything Everywhere All At Once," the most wildly ambitious film since 2012's "Cloud Atlas." And for those that know me, this is the highest form of praise, being that "Cloud Atlas" ranked as my #2 best film of the past decade.
And although I highly recommend "Everything Everywhere All At Once" for its unbridled imagination, its deftness in conveying complicated exposition, its bold vision and its odd yet stellar cast, the film's title could also be used to describe it's narrative focus. It's high-art packaged as a surprisingly accessible popcorn blockbuster, and yet it's excessively mind-numbing.
In other words, it's messiness is it's strength AND its weakness, which I guess is only fitting.
"Everything Everywhere All At Once" definitely falls in the "just go see it" category, and defies any real attempt at creating a fully-encompassing synopsis of what it's about. The amazingly talented Michelle Yeoh is at the center, playing a woman, Evelyn Wang, who is quite literally living her worst life. She owns a laundromat, and her once-attentive husband, Waymond (Ke Huy Quan!!!) is about to serve her with divorce papers. She can't connect in any meaningful way with her daughter, Joy (breakout Stephanie Hsu) and is even embarrassed to admit to her father, Gong Gong (James Hong), that Joy is in a same-sex relationship, referring to Joy's partner as her "good friend."
Everything changes one day when Evelyn, Waymond and Gong Gong are brought into the offices of their tax accountant, Deirdre Beaubeirdra (Jamie Lee Curtis, perhaps the best element of the film). A "different" more confident (and ass-kicking) version of Waymond seems to possess the body of the Waymond that she knew, and soon after, worlds literally collide. Like, all of them. Evelyn becomes caught up in an inter-dimensional/universal battle for the very fate of the multi-verse against a version (actually, all versions) of her daughter.
Let's start with the cast. Michelle Yeoh (most know her from "Crazy Rich Asians" or "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon") absolutely carries the film, given a range of emotions and situations to convey that a lesser actress would have not been able to handle. You may have noticed the "!!!" when I mentioned Ke Huy Quan earlier, and that's because I nearly leaped up out of my chair when I realized that this is the young actor - now in his 50s - who once portrayed Data in "The Goonies" and Short Round in "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom"...in other words, he was a part of some of the films that defined my childhood and who was present as I fell in love with the medium (he's INSTANTLY recognizable in this film, not just his looks but that unmistakable voice). And then there is Jamie Lee Curtis, having more fun than she ever has on-screen and absolutely crushing it. Her character provides many of the film's laughs and if there was any justice in this world, she'd be remembered later in the year for her performance (perhaps in some other alternate universe, she'd win a few awards).
Speaking of awards, it's unfathomable to think that "Everything Everywhere All At Once" won't be in at least the conversation next awards season, at a bare minimum, in the Best Editing category. Just wow. But also for make-up and hair, visual effects, sound, costume and production design...not to mention some of the acting categories.
I mentioned the ambition of the film, and it's palpable. Here is a movie bursting at the seams with imagination, where there was apparently no idea too far-fetched, no situation too implausible. This leads us to some hilarious "other" worlds, like one where everybody has hot dogs for fingers, one where a talking raccoon hides beneath a chef's hat and instructs the chef on how to cook (think "Ratatouille") and one where Evelyn and Joy simply exist as two rocks. It's almost an impossible achievement, but the filmmaking duo known as "Daniels" (Dan Kwan & Daniel Scheinart), end up finding beauty, peace and meaning in EACH of these worlds, proving that nothing is without meaning or worthy of exploration. How is it, for example, that a rock with googly-eyes on it, rolling off of a cliff, could bring a tear to my eye?
Perhaps the greatest feat of all is how the rules of this insanely complex universe are fed to the audience. A world that spans timelines, allows souls to "jump" across them, that has an "everything bagel" literally sitting at the center of it all...you would think that the movie would contain countless minutes of exposition and explanation. It doesn't at all. It feeds its mythos to us in manageable chunks, sometimes allowing itself to get out in front of the audience to create some real "WTF" moments before casually letting us know how/what/why something just happened. To give away more would be to spoil the surprises.
All of the much-deserved praise aside, I can't help but point out the stumbles along the way. Where "Cloud Atlas" balanced all of its ambitious in a way that felt complimentary and orchestral, this film is just balls-to-the-wall chaos...where "Cloud Atlas" tried to assemble meaning, "Everything Everywhere All At Once" just dumps its ingredients in a blender and lets it all fly on high. That's the point of course, but after an Earth-shattering first-half, it slowly loses its mojo, and the most unpredictable of movies becomes somewhat predictable down the stretch. There were almost TOO many ideas and themes splattered on-screen for any one of them to truly resonate.
Some have called "Everything Everywhere All At Once" the best film in decades, the best film ever, a life-changing experience. I'm happy for that, and would not want to rain on anyone else's parade. While for me it was a super-charged whirlwind, a phenomenal effort to give audiences something fresh and different, it wasn't precisely executed, nor did it congeal into some sort of rare magic.
But I will root for this movie, more than most. Let this be the timeline in which you go see "Everything Everywhere All At Once" in theaters, as this is the movie you've been waiting for, while asking, "Why don't they make good, original, non-Marvel movies anymore?" It's here, and now it's up to you to see what all the fuss is about.
Genre: Science Fiction, Adventure, Action.
Run Time: 2 hours 19 minutes.
Starring: Michelle Yeoh, Stephanie Hsu, Ke Huy Quan, James Hong, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jenny Slate, Brian Le, Harry Shum Jr.
Written and Directed by "Daniels" (Dan Kwan & Daniel Scheinert) - ("Swiss Army Man").
"Everything Everywhere All At Once" is in theaters on Friday, April 8th, 2022.
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