Action-packed and wholly original, Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s Everything Everywhere All At Once combines Looney Tunes action with a universe-spanning story about the love of family.
Michelle Yeoh stars as Evelyn Wang, a Chinese immigrant running a struggling laundromat with her husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan). Evelyn’s daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu) struggles to connect with her mother and accept her new girlfriend Becky (Tallie Medel). Adding to the tensions, the family is being audited by the IRS while also preparing for a Chinese New Year celebration.
Along with Evelyn’s father Gong Gong (James Hong), the family goes to speak with the IRS agent Deirdre (Jamie Lee Curtis). While at the office, Waymond’s personality changes to reveal he is now Alpha Waymond, a visitor from a parallel universe. Facing total extinction across universes from the force of universe-jumping Jobu Tupaki, Alpha Waymond explains that only Evelyn can defeat Jobu with her untapped potential.
If all that sounds confusing, it kind of is. That’s not the point. The gist of the story is: Evelyn exists across parallel universes where infinitesimal decisions change the course of her life. In some of these universes, she is a famous actress, while others she is a hibachi chef. Each version of Evelyn exists separately, but using the technology of the Alpha universe, Evelyn can tap into the potential of her different lives.
While the multiverse obvious plays a big factor in the story, the idea that lives can be shaped by monumental or inconsequential decisions drives the narrative. Where one huge choice can affect the entire trajectory of a life, the ripple effects of another can be equally as powerful. It is also a story of appreciating the banality of everyday life. Running a laundromat with your family might not sound like the most glamourous life, but by the film’s end, it is downright wholesome.
More than anything, the film ponders the meaninglessness of existence. Jobu views existence as nothing more than a speck of sand in an infinite desert. As the film progresses, Evelyn comes to understand that life is about the love and memories you have to look back on. It’s pretty deep for a film that throws in random lyrics from early Aughts pop songs and has an everything bagel as a major plot device.
Yeoh’s magnetic presence carries the film. The veteran actress subverts most expectations out of the gate, but is able to meld her parallel lives into one singular experience. She is able to deftly balance the fish-out-of-water with the comedic, dramatic, and physical necessities of the character. I’m not sure who else could have been better suited for the role of Evelyn. Yeoh is perfectly cast.
As perfect as Yeoh is, Quan is a revelation. His transformation between Alpha Waymond and regular Waymond is hilarious and unexpected. His regular Waymond is shy and sweet, but Alpha Waymond is assertive, informative, and more than physically capable. He is so wonderful as Alpha Waymond, that you don’t realize how much you enjoyed him as regular Waymond. Out of the limelight for so long, it’s nice to see Quan back in a big way.
Hsu has a tricky role as the complaining daughter (among other things), but she is having a blast with it. One of the best things I could say about the film is how much fun every actor seems to be having. No one is going through the motions. Hong seems like a seat-filler until he flies into action. Curtis is also great in what I was expecting to be a cameo, but expanded into a lovely supporting performance. Jenny Slate and Medel also get to have some fun with their smaller roles.
The film explains enough without explaining too much. Expositon-heavy scenes exist to explain the multiverse, but it doesn’t go into technological specifics to actually attempt to explain things. Also, things in these other universes are so preposterous, the audience just goes along with it. Since it’s all so ridiculous (and enjoyable), it doesn’t need a thorough explanation. I would rather just enjoy the idea of a racoon-controlled hibachi chef. The script is filled with whip-smart commentary and fun Easter eggs.
Completely original and unlike anything else I have seen, Everything Everywhere All At Once is a blast to watch and one that will only improve upon multiple rewatches.
Everything Everywhere All At Once is showing in limited theaters and expands on April 8th.