Everything Everywhere All At Once
Reviewed by Galen Strickland
Posted May 5, 2022
Multiverse stories seem to be the rage these days. The upcoming Doctor Strange sequel will likely do more business, mainly because of its ties to previous Marvel films, but Everything Everywhere All At Once deserves as much attention, and not just because of the wild story, special effects, and dynamic stunts. Any good SF or Fantasy film or book has to do what every other form of story should, connect us to human characters and situations. For the best of them, and this one qualifies, the fantastical element can be excised without harming the core story. My comments will be brief, but the bottom line is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! Advance word for the film was closely guarded, with an early IMDb synopsis being "a woman tries to do her taxes." That is how it begins, with Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh) poring over receipts and other documents related to her laundry business. Later, when she and her husband (Ke Huy Quan), and her father (James Hong), go to a meeting with an IRS auditor (Jamie Leigh Curtis), all hell (or all worlds) breaks loose.
An alternate universe version of her husband pops up to give her intructions that will change her course in life, or at least give her insight as to how her life might have been if she had made other decisions. Her parents had objected to her romantic choice, and in another universe she took their advice and walked away from him, and in so doing became a famous film star. The Waymond Wang giving her all this information is supposedly from the Alphaverse, but that's probably just from his perspective. We are all the center of our own universe, even when we know there really isn't any center. How will her new perspective help her in the universe that means the most to her? Another aspect of fantasy stories can be that it is all in the mind of the character. As Evelyn despairs of getting her finances in order to avoid IRS prosecution, she has to be thinking of how her life led to this point. She is preoccupied with the laundry, while at the same time wishes she could be doing something else. Thus she is distant from her husband, and almost completely estranged from her daughter Joy (Stepahnie Hsu), who is lesbian. The alternate Waymond Wang tells her she must stop the evil that has arisen in the form of an alternate version of her daughter. She acknowledges Joy's girlfriend Becky (Tallie Medel), but at the same time tries to convince herself and Joy that Becky is just a friend. She most definitely doesn't want to tell her father about it. Can she resolve all of these issues and repair the damage to her family, or will she get lost in one of the alternate versions of herself? In one of those versions she is in a romantic relationship with Dierdre, who in her "real" world is the IRS agent. The notion that it might all be in her head breaks down when her husband and daughter begin to experience the incursions from the alternate universes. But still, the core story is her relationship problems and how she can resolve them.
That's as much as I'll say about the plot, now on to the perfomances. Michelle Yeoh is as good as in anything else I've seen, believable as the beleaguered businesswoman, as well as the radiant film star, and as a genuine martial-artist. None of that should be surprising to anyone. James Hong should be recognizable to almost everyone, even if they don't know his name, but I'd say his performance is very close to all the others I've seen. It was great seeing Ke Huy Quan again, who burst on the scene nearly forty years ago as Short Round in the second Indiana Jones movie, and shortly after in The Goonies. This is only his second credit within the past twenty years, but I hope it leads to a lot more work for him. Coincidentally, his 2002 film (Second Time Around, which I have not seen) dealt with alternate universes too. I didn't initially recognize Jamie Leigh Curtis, but that has more to do with makeup and her character's demeanor than anything else. She is intimidating as the IRS agent, even more so as an alternate universe Dierdre, but then softens into the alternate romantic partner (in a world where everyone's hands are like limp hot dogs). As great as Michelle is, I have to say the best performance is by Stephanie Hsu, and I should have recognized her because she has been on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel since Season Three, as Joel Maisel's new girlfriend Mei. Her reaction to her mother's indifference, or outright rejection, is heart-breaking.
Back to IMDb, and what it now says in the storyline at the top of the page: "An aging Chinese immigrant is swept up in an insane adventure." I'm thinking, wait a minute, Michelle Yeoh is twelve years younger than me, how can she be aging. Then of course I think, dummy, you're very old yourself. But in Michelle's case at least, I'd say 60 is the new 40. She's beautiful, graceful, full of vibrant life. She may not do all her own stunts anymore, but the way films are shot and edited these days it's hard to tell. You absolutely believe she is doing those stunts, and that applies to Ke Huy Quan as well. There is only one thing that disappointed me, but I won't mention it because I may be wrong. It involves a bit of dialog which I believe was never spoken, but should have. I will buy this on Blu-Ray eventually, and hopefully the picture quality will be superior to what I saw in the theater yesterday. I think it might have as much to do with the projection equipment and focus than the quality of the print. Or at least I hope so. Go see this in the theater if you're inclined to do so now. I lucked into an afternoon show where I was the only one in the audience, so I took off my mask since I needed to wear my glasses. It may not be in theaters much longer, since it has been six weeks since its release, and the big tentpole films will be rolling out shortly. I'd like to go see it again right away, but video release shouldn't be too far away.
UPDATE, July 5: Now on DVD & Blu-Ray.
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