If you’re looking for a review to sum up Everything Everywhere All at Once in one tidy little package, you can forget about it. The new film from directors Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (collectively known as Daniels) — the same guys who had Paul Dano playing around with a dead, farting Daniel Radcliffe on a deserted island in 2016’s Swiss Army Man — is a bigger, grander smorgasbord of what-the-fuck.
Let me see if I can actually sum up the plot: Michelle Yeoh is Evelyn Wang, a Chinese-American woman who has a lot of things to worry about, from running a laundromat business with her husband (Ke Huy Quan) to getting audited by an IRS inspector (a frumpy, menacing Jamie Lee Curtis). She’s also keeping her dad (veteran character actor James Hong) in the dark about her daughter (Stephanie Hsu, successfully stepping into a role originally intended for Awkwafina) liking girls. Things get even more complicated when she finds out she can bounce through dimensions and assume different versions of herself. She also has to save the whole multiverse from slipping into an everything-bagel-sized void. (Just take my word for it.)
As Bill Hader’s SNL city correspondent Stefan would say, this movie has everything: rocks, dildos, cookies, people with hot-dog fingers, a talking raccoon, various objects used as buttplugs, Jenny Slate swinging a dog around by the neck. Call it Daniels’ kitchen-sink approach to telling, basically, a dysfunctional-family dramedy. The whole movie is practically a wildly ambitious shout-out to parents who always try their best, even when they’re at their worst. Yeoh’s matriarch quantum-leaps through time and space, jumping into different stories in various aspect ratios, all in order to keep her family — and herself — from falling apart. As it happens, between this and the smart-ass way Ti West opens up his enjoyably naughty recent release X, it’s fun watching these genre filmmakers show up to A24 — the film company that notoriously drops movies from indie auteurs who like to mess with aspect ratios — with films that take the piss out of all of them.
Every last flower in the world should go to Michelle Yeoh, who absolutely kills it here. You may know her as the mean mom from Crazy Rich Asians, but to fans of Hong Kong cinema, she’s the queen, an ass-kicking Meryl Streep. But even when hits like Supercop and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon showed off Yeoh’s star power decades ago, Hollywood didn’t know what to do with her. (Remember when they made her a crafty Bond girl in Tomorrow Never Dies?)
But those blatant film nerds Daniels know exactly what to do, having Yeoh front-and-center in a film where she gives off everything from radiant beauty to chopsocky skills to heartfelt emotion. They even salute her status as a global movie star by having her play a global movie star in one universe — the boys also get to salute Wong Kar-wai by filming that whole segment in his style.
They also give Quan, the onetime child actor who won over ’80s audiences in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and The Goonies, major time to shine. Along with having his own acrobatic action moments, he plays his nebbish husband as the movie’s pacifistic heart, continually trying to maintain peace and sanity across varying dimensions. Dude makes one hell of a classy comeback.
Not since The Matrix have I seen a film that jacks a whole bunch of movie genres in order to come up with something bewildering, energetic, relentlessly entertaining and, ultimately, surprisingly profound. This has fight scenes that are both awe-inspiring and guffaw-inducing. And yet, Everything Everywhere also pulls off the amazing feat of being moving and soul-stirring. What’s more, it also has multiple generations of Asian actors giving outstanding performances.
Everything Everywhere All at Once is a dizzying collage of sci-fi, action, comedy and drama that’s also the most amazing thing I’ve seen in ages.