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Review: 'Everything Everywhere All at Once' (2022) Dirs. Dan Kwan & Daniel Scheinert

Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, Stephanie Hsu, Jamie Lee Curtis, James Hong, Tallie Medel, Jenny Slate, Harry Shum Jr. and Daniel Scheinert

 

It's not just Marvel who have introduced the multiverse concept to audiences in 2002. The Daniels bring us a fantastical mix of genres to tell the story of another multiverse in peril...


Evelyn Wang (Yeoh) is a wife, mother and daughter trying to juggle a busy lifestyle. Husband Waymond (Quan) wants a divorce. Daughter Joy (Hsu) wants her to accept she has a girlfriend. Father Gong Gong (Hong) is as demanding and pedantic as ever.


With her laundry business audited by the IRS under clerk Deirdre Beaubeirdra (Curtis), Evelyn finds the walls closing in on her until Waymond is inhibited by another Waymond - an Alpha Waymond - from another universe. He opens up the multiverse concept to Evelyn.


With the known universes at threat due to a powerful force jumping between them, Waymond encourages Evelyn to learn and inhibit a power known as "verse-jumping" where she will have to fight to not just save the universe, but also stop her family from slowly falling apart...

Everything Everywhere All At Once is a film split into three chapters - Everything. Everywhere. All At Once. It tackles the multiverse concept but with no Marvel superhero in sight. Co-directed by Dan Kwan & Daniel Scheinert (The Daniels), it is an original story but layered with deep meaning philosophy and morality. The plot is fast paced, leaping between multiverses that will be dangerously short on exposition to leave casual viewers a little lost. Yet, the concept itself is simple. Find your inner strength and save the universe!


However the film has gained so much hype on social media and through various critical acclaim that is feels untouchable by any negative thought. The film is not a masterpiece. It is not perfect, nor is it ground-breaking. There is nothing new in terms of blending action and comedy, and only technically does the film take real gambles and chances to offer a few pay-offs. There often feels places where the narrative is running dry, and ping-pongs back and forth between ideas in order to try and maintain the humour with the underlaying emotional core. By splicing many genres, it struggles to know just what it wants to be and where to focus it's one strength.

Michelle Yeoh marks a welcome return to the mainstream with her ability at playing it both straight and comedic with a career that has blended action and comedy, drama and pathos.

Yeoh settles right in as an estranged wife and mother, Evelyn, seeking balance and worth in her life. Battling the IRS and a laundry business is only the tip of the iceberg, and Yeoh is always watchable. With co-stars Ke Huy Quan as her geeky husband Waymond, Stephanie Hsu as daughter Joy and James Hong family patriarch Gong Gong, the cast of Asian talent is second to none and really gel as a family. The fast-cut, mad-cap martial arts humour and emotional outburst would have been a perfect vehicle to bring Jackie Chan to unite with Yeoh again for something even more special.


Jamie Lee Curtis is clearly having fun as Deirdre Beaubeirdra, the IRS clerk, and proves she is also an actor capable of giving roles like this her all, making them tongue-in-cheek but still amusing. Tackling a multiverse concept does allow each actor to go above and beyond the normal, and their variety of interpretations and characterisations do veer on the overly comical, but the actors just about keep them grounded with the balance of emotive and humane touches.

EEAAO soars in terms of it's technical creativity - from editing by Paul Rogers and trippy cinematography from Larkin Seiple, it's an A24 lovers dream where nothing is what it really seems and nothing in terms of what crazy creation you'll see next is expected. In that respect, it goes hard for as many practical, fluid effects to be seamless in its many transitions. The narrative itself just never feels strong enough to rely on such techniques for two hours, and not all of the plot points land or remain entertaining. While the mix of genres will please many, something about it all doesn't feel overly full of the "wow" factor much of the pre-hype sold. This does not re-write the multiverse concept, and isn't anything to re-shape action/adventures.


More than just a fantastical blend of genres and multiverses, there is a strong sentiment of family here. From building broken relationships, to appreciating what you have, and what you once had and seeking to repair issues buried inside. Those moments echo stronger than the multiverse nonsense, sometimes feeling each emotional moment is a stepping stone towards an inevitable - sometimes predictable - outcome, but one that pays off eventually if you can stick with an otherwise underwhelming slice of silly, sausage-fingered fantasy.

EEAAO came from nowhere and tries its best to be different, which it certainly is in some ways. Yet, not all the hits land and it feels to have been over-hyped as something ground-breaking when it's nothing that memorable or different at all.





'Everything Everywhere All At Once' is a co-production between AGBO, Ley Line Entertainment, IAC Films and Year of the Rat


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