EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE - and on a Bagel
Award-winning actress Michelle Yeoh stars in Everything Everywhere All at Once, a polarizing yet big-hearted and comedic surreal sci-fi action adventure about a Chinese American woman struggling with her taxes - as well as her husband, her daughter, her father and the universe.
Seriously though - who hasn’t felt existential dread while doing their taxes?
Written and directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, collectively known as Daniels, the film’s central character is Evelyn Wang, a woman with many interests but mastery in none. She goes through the motions of life without any significant achievements. She and her husband Waymond Wang (Ke Huy Quan) own and operate a laundromat, which they live above.
Evelyn married Waymond against her father’s wishes, running away to live with her husband in the U.S. Now she finds herself constantly fixing his mistakes, with no idea that he has divorce papers ready if things between them don't improve.
Meanwhile, their daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu), seems to be turning into a version of Evelyn, wandering aimlessly through life and pulling away from her mother. Evelyn feels the mounting pressure as they prepare a Chinese New Year's Eve party, strive to meet her father's standards, and deal with a laundromat on the brink of failure coupled with an IRS audit conducted by the formidable Deirdre Beaubeirdre (Jamie Lee Curtis).
As Evelyn and Waymond enter into an ultimatum meeting with Deirdre, Evelyn somehow physically and metaphysically enters an alternate universe at a crucial moment. Thus begins a psychedelic rollercoaster ride into alternate universes and lives that help Evelyn ultimately come to an understanding of herself and her loved ones.
In Everything Everywhere All at Once, Evelyn alone can save existence by exploring a multiverse in which she can explore and take on skills and strengths from her alternate realities. The question is raised – will she be able to tap into newfound powers, to prevent a cataclysmic event brought on by a recurring evil entity of one unseen world?
The ensemble cast portraying the Wang family supports a vast array and depth of characters across the multiverse. Quan’s natural charm is infectious, with his character demonstrating care and love for his wife. His pain is evident as well as Joy’s, which Hsu pulls off consistently. Jamie Lee Curtis albeit disappears into her role as Deirde, the uptight auditor, who remains unchanged in most of the alternate realities.
Everything Everywhere All At Once demonstrates that an individual is made not only of the experiences of every universe that exists out there. It is our perception that can cause alternate realities within our own universe - no need for a multiverse when it already exists within our mind.
The question of “What if?” can not only bring regret, but also contentment - how could one ever know what would be gained? These are just a few of the existential and philosophical questions raised by this captivating and thought-provoking film.
Understandably, Everything Everywhere All At Once may not be for everyone. Some of the psychotropic-like effects and audio sequences can be a bit overwhelming, especially for those viewers like me who are hypersensitive to sound or are easily distracted. However these sequences pass quickly enough – if anything, I’m prompted to watch the film again and again to see what I missed during the first viewing.