‘Everything Everywhere All At Once’ is unusual, insane, and absolutely glorious

The Daniels’ sci-fi/fantasy/family drama is anchored by a mesmerizing performance from Michelle Yeoh


Courtesy A24 Pictures

Michelle Yeoh stars in “Everything Everywhere All At Once.”

“We are put on this planet only once, and to limit ourselves to the familiar is a crime against our minds.”

Roger Ebert would have loved “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” Of this I have no doubt. This film, like all the great films, immediately makes it clear that those movies you thought moved were actually standing still.

There are a lot of movies that involve multiple dimensions (every Marvel movie in the last year, “Source Code,” “Looper,” “Donnie Darko”), a bunch with kick-ass martial arts, and tons about internal family drama involving misunderstandings between parents and their children. As the title of this movie suggests, it is indeed everything all at once.

And it is glorious. The unusual combinations of comedy, both traditional and surreal, action-adventure, science fiction, and family drama have this movie feeling as fresh as “Pulp Fiction” did in 1994, or “Fight Club” in 1999, or “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” in 2004, or “Mad Max: Fury Road” in 2015. The Daniels have made a movie that feels like something we’ve never seen before, yet feels like it has lived with us forever.

The film stars Michelle Yeoh as Evelyn Wang, the matriarch of a family struggling with running its businesses, the chief of which is a laundromat. She is driven, and brusque, easily annoyed by her family, which includes her good-natured husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan) and her angsty daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu). Yet, despite Evelyn’s frustrated demeanor, there’s something yearning at the edges, the kind of person that would buy a karaoke machine and try to pass it off as a business expense, or the kind who would marry Waymond, who enjoys putting googly eyes on random objects.

From the get, Evelyn is trying to balance putting together a party to celebrate Chinese New Year while also collecting all the necessary documentation for a trip to visit their IRS auditor (Jamie Lee Curtis). And she’s doing all this under what she perceives to be the watchful, ultra-critical eye of her ailing father (James Hong).

Everything seems like a typical family drama. This could be “Eat, Drink, Man, Woman” or “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” at this point. But it is a movie made by the Daniels, whose previous credit is the incredibly crazy farting corpse movie “Swiss Army Man.” These two have imaginations for millenia, and once Evelyn makes it to the IRS office, the movie gleefully goes off the rails when a Waymond from a parallel universe nabs Evelyn and convinces her that she is the secret weapon to save the multiverse from the machinations of the evil Jobu Topaki. All Evelyn has to do is channel the abilities of her multiversal selves.

And if you think that’s weird, you don’t know the half of it. From this point, it’s impossible to explain this film without sounding like a child telling a story about their action figures or imaginary friends. All I can say is that what the Daniels have accomplished is nothing sort of masterful. They manage to make multiverse storytelling not only understandable, but relatable and impactful.

Michelle Yeoh, it goes without saying, is remarkable as Evelyn, but it needs to be said because it is rare in American cinema for a Chinese actress to be given a role of such depth and complexity. Chinese performers are often stereotyped as either wise sages or badass warrior types, always presented as mysterious or exotic. In “Everything Everywhere,” there is absolutely nothing exotic about Evelyn Wang, and she is more memorable because of it.

Nothing is familiar in “Everything Everywhere.” It takes us places movies are seldom brave enough to travel, both aesthetically and emotionally. The crime here would be refusing to see it.

“Everything Everywhere All At Once” is currently playing in theaters nationwide. You can find showtimes and tickets at Fandango.