Raccoons, googly eyes, rocks, piñatas, suggestively shaped trophies, and rear ends. What do these elements all have in common? Absolutely nothing, and yet everything. There’s a moment in Everything Everywhere All at Once where Jamie Lee Curtis (unrecognizable as an IRS inspector) says, “I can see where this story is going.” For the audience, that statement couldn’t be further from reality. Once in a blue moon, I see a film that can only be defined as a true original. Swiss Army Man is one example, mixing farting corpses, erections, and pathos. Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert have followed up that film with a cinematic rollercoaster that triggers every sense and emotion in ways that few others have.
The “everything” in the film’s title reflects Michelle Yeoh’s performance. Yeoh gets to do everything in her repertoire, from comedy, to drama, to martial arts. When we first meet Evelyn Wang, she seems like one of Yeoh’s more straightforward characters. She runs a laundromat, argues with her daughter about having a girlfriend, and looks after her aging father. By exploring the alternative routes not taken, Evelyn taps into her unlimited potential. Evelyn’s plate appears full as she deals with a Chinese New Year party, tax issues, and a spouse who wants a divorce. Her life becomes infinitely more complicated when her husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan) suddenly changes personalities.
Waymond informs Evelyn that he’s her husband from another universe. She learns that the multiverse is at the mercy of Jobu Tupaki (Stephanie Hsu), an alternate version of her daughter. The reluctant Evelyn has no choice but to hop from universe to universe as Jobu pursues her. In one universe, Evelyn is a glamorous actress. In another, she has hot dogs for fingers. It appears all of these universes run the risk of being destroyed by a black hole everything bagel. This sounds insane, and in many respects, it is. Everything Everywhere All at Once isn’t just madness for the sake of madness, however. Behind the insanity, there’s a touching story about existence, acceptance, and kindness.
Yeoh is already a screen legend, but she gives arguably her most versatile performance here. As many layers as Yeoh unravels, she always remains true to the Evelyn we first meet. Quan and Hsu are equally wonderful in duel performances. James Hong is another standout as Evelyn’s father, delivering one of the funniest and most poignant performances of his storied career. Time will only tell if Yeoh receives the Best Actress nomination that she deserves. However, it’s hard to imagine a reality where Paul Rogers isn’t nominated for his kinetic editing. Rogers’ work is like a Mozart opera with every note in just the right place.
For the longest time, time loop movies were all the rage. Multiverse movies have seemingly filled that void with shows like Loki and blockbusters like No Way Home. Even with those recent examples, Everything Everywhere All at Once is in a league of its own. Its approach to the multiverse concept is wildly creative, surprisingly touching, and not reliant on pre-existing characters to hook us in. The film is closer to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind than a Marvel movie. There’s also a bit of Quantum Leap mixed in there. Any similarities, though, are purely on a surface level. At its core, Everything Everywhere All at Once is a singular experience.