Sunday, September 25, 2022

Everything Everywhere All at Once

Movie Name:
Everything Everywhere All at Once
Year of Release: 2022
Director: Dan Kwan, Daniel Scheinert
Starring: Michelle Yeoh, Stephanie Hsu, Jamie Lee Curtis, Ke Huy Quan, James Hong, Tallie Medel, Jenny Slate, Harry Shum Jr., Biff Wiff, Brian Le, Andy Le, Narayana Cabral, Chelsey Goldsmith, Anthony Molinari
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7
Watch it on Amazon Prime

Synopsis and Review
After making a splash with their feature directorial debut, "Swiss Army Man", the Daniels have returned with an even more ambitious feature, one that tackles multi-universes and ultimately a reflection on how our choices can produce a multitude of occurrences in different planes of existence. The narrative is divided in three different chapters, starting with Everything, followed by Everywhere and finally closing off with All at Once. The narrative is centered around Evelyn Quan Wang, a Chinese American immigrant who runs a struggling laundromat business with her husband, the sweet and affable Waymond. Evelyn is particularly stressed out since her business is being audited by the IRS, and her disapproving father Gong Gong is visiting her from their home town of Hong Kong. Evelyn has also a checkered relationship with her daughter Joy, and can't seem to fully embrace her relationship with the sweet Becky. Things take an unexpected turn, when after a disastrous meeting with Deirdre their IRS inspector, Waymond's personality changes, and he explains he has been taken over by a different version of himself from a different universe. He explains that in his universe there's a technology that has enabled "verse-jumping", which allows people to access skills, memories and the body of their parallel universe counterpart. What follows is a series of adventures, where Evelyn tries to salvage her life, understand her choices, and patch what can be patched within her family and relationships.
For all its surreality, visual gimmickry, and sense of humor, there's a profound sense of finding meaning in relationships and coming to terms with one's choices in this film from the Daniels. The journey we embark on, is one where Evelyn is initially crushed by life, and in a way, by her choices. She bears the pain of her father's disappointment, and carries it forward in her relationships with her husband and child, never realizing she herself is perpetuating a cycle of toxicity in her relationships, since she herself can't come to terms and overcome the fear of disappointment she has within herself. The script smartly layers this sense of choices and how they produce multiple variations of existence, and how they can all impart knowledge upon each other (not totally different from what the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer did in the adaptation of David Mitchell's "Cloud Atlas", though they did this in an extended chronological sequence of events). It's a film filled with interesting ideas, one that at times brings to mind the work of Michel Gondry (at least visually), but that manages to have its own authentic point of view, peppered with references from martial arts films from the 70s and 80s, but also low budget sci-fi from the 80s (such as Steve De Jarnatt's "Cherry 2000"), mixing all these references in a coherent and heartfelt narrative. The cast is fantastic, bringing all these variations and nuances to the characters to life, with Michelle Yeoh, Stephanie Hsu, Ke Huy Quan, James Hong and Jamie Lee Curtis all making for a superb ensemble. Though some of the characters are more unidimensional than others, they're nonetheless compelling, and always watchable. It's a film that has heart and imagination, one that is peppered with humor and idiosyncratic stylistic choices (which I personally loved in Oliver Stone's "Natural Born Killers", but never saw it since quite well flushed out as in this particular case). It does have some rough patches to it, but it's entertaining, humorous and heartfelt. Worth watching.