“Of all the places I could be, I just want to be here with you.”
Al’s rating: Like I needed one more reason to avoid hot dogs for the rest of my natural life. And everything bagels, for that matter.
Al’s review: Can we all agree that Michelle Yeoh is flawless? She is gifted and beautiful and poised and intelligent and funny and just gosh darn flawless? Whether she is a ruthless space emperor or a world-weary wuxia warrior or a whipsmart Bond girl, I do not believe she can turn in a bad performance. And when you give her strong material packed with action and comedy and philosophy and a great supporting cast and heaps of plain old weirdness? Well, that’s when you get something like Everything Everywhere All At Once.
In Everything Everywhere, Michelle Yeoh plays Evelyn Wang, a character who is decidedly NOT flawless. Her marriage is stagnant and starting to crumble. Her wheelchair-bound father is demanding and perpetually disappointed. She cannot seem to figure out how to communicate with her angry and distant daughter, Joy (Stephanie Soo). The laundromat she owns is under audit by a ballbuster at the IRS (Jamie Lee Curtis). Oh yeah, and she just found out the safety of the universe may hinge on her learning to access the multiverse.
On her way to a pivotal meeting with the IRS, Evelyn is visited by the Alphaverse. Her husband, Waymond (Ke Huy Quan), is possessed by his alternate reality-self, “Alpha Waymond.” Alpha Waymond is everything Evelyn’s husband is not: cool, driven, dominant, and ready to kick ass. Alpha Waymond, it turns out, has been on a mission to find this specific version of Evelyn. A mysterious, deadly, absurdly named villain, Jobu Tupaki, seeks to obliterate the multiverse and only someone as completely and depressingly unfulfilled as Evelyn has the untapped potential to access these alternate realities and stop Jobu for good.
Armed with a multiversal earpiece and a series of improbable instructions (Chug a bottle of orange soda! Sincerely profess your love to your enemy!), Evelyn learns to inhabit different versions of herself and briefly borrow their skills: movie star Evelyn has learned Kung Fu for her action movies; opera singer Evelyn has perfect breath control; hibachi chef Evelyn wields knives like a pro. Soon, Evelyn is a bona fide badass — assuming that’s what the multiverse really needs from her.
Michelle Yeoh is (you guessed it) flawless as Evelyn, making her both deeply unlikeable and uncomfortably relatable. Yeoh’s chops in the action scenes are beyond question, but she also has the gravitas and nuance needed for discussing her tattered marriage with her husband and the comedic timing required to yank on a man’s hair and operate him like a marionette.
Her daughter, Joy, has a comparably smaller part in the film, but Stephanie Soo knows how to show us the layers of armor that someone like Joy has been forced to wear after growing up with a mom like Evelyn. Different Joys may be more broad or more subtle, but they never stray too far from the quintessential (and quintessentially broken) Joy.
My favorite character in the film, though — and my favorite character I’ve seen onscreen all year — is Waymond Wang, Evelyn’s husband. Waymond is neither the coolest nor the funniest character. When we meet him, he seems a little pathetic. Evelyn certainly thinks so. He scurries from place to place, smoothing over his wife’s outbursts, making silly jokes and placating comments.
But as the film progresses, so does Evelyn’s understanding of Waymond. He is not a doormat or pushover. Waymond is his own kind of fighter. He is constantly taking proactive steps to fix the problems he sees. He meets confrontation head on through kindness and understanding, and he believes that he will ultimately be met with kindness, too. Waymond never changes during the film, but the way we see him does. He is the kind of hero that we need to see more of.
There is so much I want to talk about in Everything Everywhere All At Once that I feel like I’m doing it a disservice. Despite everything I wrote above, I don’t think I’ve properly conveyed how silly and bizarre this movie is. There are kung fu battles between Evelyn and her tax auditor, and deep discussions on the merits of being a rock instead of a person. There are police officers being attacked sex toys, a dimension where people have disgusting hot dog fingers, and Ratatouille – yes, that one. There is SO much here to geek out on and dig into.
And yet, the real secret of this film is that despite its multiversal gobbledegook and its wacky Bluetooth technology and its hot dog fingers, the story is actually something simple and relatable. It’s about parents and children. Mothers and daughters. Wondering “what if?” and fearing that you missed out. Directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Schoenberg have made a very human, emotional movie that they’ve wrapped up in silly kung fu and ersatz butt plugs.
This has been a year with a surprisingly large number of movies about multiverses and you could choose to watch any one of them, but stop and think about it. Everything Everywhere All At Once is silly, smart, uncomfortable, and will give you feelings about googly eyes. You could have ended up without this movie in your life AND chewing on your partner’s hot dog fingers. Instead you are in a reality where this movie exists and you have the prehensile fingers to hit the play button. Don’t squander this opportunity.
Justin’s rating: If there’s one thing I’m taking away from this, it’s that I need to order an everything bagel tomorrow morning from Tim Horton’s
Justin’s review: There are two caveats I need to declare at the outset of this review. First, Everything Everywhere All At Once is a deeply weird movie, probably more than you were expecting. Second, it’s probably one of those flicks that should be experienced with the bare minimum of spoilers or preparation. Just dive into it, see if its weirdness is for you, then come back to talk to us about it.
We begin our absurd trip through the multiverse with Evelyn (the incomparable Michelle Yeoh), a harried laundromat owner who’s drowning in all of her relationships — with her daughter, her father, her husband, and her IRS auditor (the latter played by Jamie Lee Curtis in a terrible wig and outfit). But the problem is that she doesn’t see that there’s a problem anywhere because she’s frantically trying to stay on top of everything that she’s, as one character says later, “living her worst life.” Evelyn’s husband Waymond is feeling so ignored and neglected that he’s filing for a divorce just to get her attention, and her daughter Joy is just hours away from disowning her mom.
As the crew goes in for a disastrous audit meeting, Evelyn finds herself contacted by an agent — who looks like her husband — from another universe. He tells her of a great evil that’s threatening all of reality while giving her the ability to “verse-jump.” In other words, she can find other versions of her in different universes and download their skillsets into her own brain. If it sounds like The Matrix teaching Keanu Reeves to kung fu with a computer program, trust me when I say that it’s not the only reference made to that ’99 flick.
So Evelyn learns to master her powers before realizing that it’s not about defeating the enemy, it’s understanding them. The crux of Everything Everywhere All At Once is communication — or a lack of it. Her family literally communicates with three different languages, and nobody is really telling anyone else what they need to say, Evelyn most of all. Thus we get a slightly over-long, absurdist trip through several different universes, including a hot dog finger realm, a place of rocks with googly eyes, animated drawings, and the like while Evelyn comes to the gradual revelation that maybe fighting isn’t the answer. Perhaps communicating is.
I’m going to be the one who stands up at this point in 2022 and say that maybe we need to cool it on the multiverse trend that everyone’s been hopping on as of late. It was interesting at first, and now it’s in danger of being overmined to make parallel worlds absolutely uninteresting. If this film had been more popular, maybe it would have functioned as a high water mark before letting the waters recede somewhat.
It’s a good film, yet not quite as amazing as I had originally hoped. There’s some silly parts, some definitely “I can never show this to my kids” parts, and some tugging-on-the-heartstrings parts. But I kept feeling like the movie was fishing around for something profound to say and landing on nothing more than a nihilistic “We’re all small and stupid.” Which is an actual quote from the movie, I should point out. It tries to say how insignificant we are — while also saying we’re incredibly significant to some.
So I guess you can try to have your contradiction and eat it too, but it’s going to taste like an everything bagel, signifying nothing.
- “Your Chinese is getting worse every time we talk.”
- Google eyes!
- That’s one deadly fanny pack
- Did not need to see those papercuts
- The hot dog finger universe — where your feet do everything
- The everything bagel
- You probably didn’t think you were going to see a little dog used as an airborne weapon
- So happy we got that blur effect
- That’s one mighty pinky
- And why not put a “The End” in the middle of the movie?
- Raccoon on the head
- Oh good, now we’re at the part of the movie where the rocks are talking to each other
- So many Matrix homages