Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Movie Review: ‘Everything Everywhere All At Once’ is a Bombastic Tale of Nothing and Everything

Directors: Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert

Writers: Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert

Stars: Michelle Yeoh, Stephanie Hsu, Ke Huy Quan

Synopsis: An aging Chinese immigrant is swept up in an insane adventure, where she alone can save the world by exploring other universes connecting with the lives she could have led.

In many ways, I don’t know how to even describe this film. It’s both incredibly large scale, through its usage of a multiverse and parallel realities, and incredibly small, due to its focus on the life of Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh) and her family. It’s a film with both martial arts fights and IRS meetings. It’s a film that revels in surrealism and absurdity, and it throws traditional plot structure out the window. It’s unlike anything else you have ever seen. And I highly recommend going into the film blind, because every twist, every turn, every emotional beat, is an experience. If this movie sounds up your alley, close this review and go watch it.

Everything Everywhere All At Once isn’t just a fantastic movie. It’s a filmmaking achievement that will go down in history. This is the type of film that requires multiple viewings to soak up everything that is happening. Every scene, every moment, is packed with subtext, subtle performances, and eloquent visuals that may go unnoticed due to everything that is happening around it. And while that chaotic energy could drag down a more serious drama, it’s the bread and butter of Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheiner’s (The Daniels) latest film. Like the title says, this film is about everything, everywhere, all at once, and you feel that through the editing, performances, cinematography and writing. Every aspect of this film feels hand-crafted, due to the intentionality behind it all. Every element combines with the others to make something that is more than the sum of its parts. 


Part One: A Film about Everything 

Everything Everywhere All At Once is the tale of Evelyn Wang, a middle-aged woman whose life hasn’t amounted to anything. She’s constantly doing too much, unable to slow down due to the pressures of running a business, caring for a lesbian daughter and holding the weight of the world on her shoulders. When individuals from the Alpha-verse make contact with Evelyn, she is entrusted with the quest to save the world by defeating Jobu Tupaki (Stephanie Hsu), the daughter of Alpha-Evelyn who got pushed too far and seeks to destroy the entire multiverse. Along the way, Evelyn has to learn how to let go and appreciate the things in life that truly matter. 

Everything, Everywhere, All At Once may just be the quintessential millennial film. For those unfamiliar with the term, a “Millenial film” is a story that reflects the fears and worries typically associated with the Millennial Generation. These often include fears of financial security, personal growth and success, and the growing gaps between different generations. In an ever-expanding world, where unlimited expanses of information are at our fingertips, those worries have become more and more prominent. To deal with all those worries, The Daniels have created this film. It’s a film about coming to terms with those worries and choosing to focus on the connections that unify humanity together. In a post-pandemic world, it’s more relevant than ever. 


Part Two: A Film With Everything 

Describing The Daniels latest project feels impossible because there is so much packed into the 140-minute runtime. There are talking raccoons, fanny pack whips, visual effects that would fit in the summer’s greatest blockbusters, hand-drawn cartoons, and even rocks with googly eyes. That adherence to complete absurdity is the core of Everything Everywhere All At Once. Much like Spider-man:Into the Spider-verse or Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, the combinations of visual gags and witty jokes glue this insane story together. Enhancing every component of the film is Son Lux’s score, which manages to be otherworldly and pressure-inducing. It captures the many tones of this film perfectly and is fundamental to this story. 

This is supported by great performances from the entire cast. Michelle Yeoh’s work as Evelyn is second to none, with her immense talent in action sequences being matched only by her subtle emoting during the many great dialogue sequences in the film. Similarly, Stephanie Hsu holds her own as Joy Wang/Jobu Tupaki, and deserves much praise for her tortured performance. But no one compares to the eccentric work of Ke Huy Quan, who plays the many versions of Waymond Wang. The contrast in these characters is gorgeous on the script level, but Quan truly brings Waymond to life through every element of his performance. Whether it’s his vocal inflection or his movement, Waymond never feels the same between universes. Considering that Everything Everywhere All At Once was Ke Huy Quan’s return to acting after quitting in 2002, it’s one of the best performances of all time.  

Part Three: A Film that Happens All At Once

What’s magic about Everything, Everywhere, All At Once is that it sits with you. The raw creativity and passion comes through every scene, and creates emotional apexes not seen anywhere else. Even the weird universes have a heart to them. The way that The Daniels have made me care for a conversation between two rocks on a lifeless Earth is unlike anything I have ever felt before. And that storytelling achievement starts at the writing level, which chooses to use the medium of film in ways nothing else has. And no, I am not just talking about how it utilizes and displays the multiverse. For as ecstatic and bombastic its costumes and makeup make the multiverse, it’s the way the film is constructed that makes it special. 

The editing techniques of cross-cutting and montage have been around for years, but no other film has used them like Everything Everywhere All At Once. Editor Paul Rogers extends single scenes through universe jumping, combining multiple conversations into a single dialogue that recontextualizes every moment that came before. Each universe is weirder than the last, and yet, infinitely more human than the present. Even the multiverse with hot-dog fingers is strangely beautiful.

The way that The Daniels have used the Multiverse, and setting changes, to add meaning and depth to the story is truly unique and mind blowing. And it’s not just seen through the immaculate production design by Jason Kisvarday, which gives each location life and rich history. Rather, the way the camera moves between scenes feels like something from Alfonso Cuaron, as it flows through each location and creates one larger setting. Cinematographer Larkin Seiple manages to capture each scene beautifully and uses different genre styles to create distinct worlds. When a conversation occurs between Evelyn and Waymond in a world where they never married, the scene is lit as though it were a Wong Kar Wai film. That is the magic behind Everything Everywhere All At Once; where the craft enhances the story being told, and where techniques change between scenes because each scene requires that specific visual style to tell this story effectively.

In conclusion, Everything Everywhere All At Once is a marvelous achievement in filmmaking. The Daniels have created one of the best films of the year, and it is sure to inspire the next generation of filmmakers. 


Grade: A

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