Review: ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once,’ starring Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, Stephanie Hsu, James Hong, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tallie Medel and Jenny Slate

March 23, 2022

by Carla Hay

Ke Huy Quan, Jamie Lee Curtis and Michelle Yeoh in “Everything Everywhere All at Once” (Photo by Allyson Riggs/A24)

“Everything Everywhere All at Once”

Directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert

Some language in Mandarin and Cantonese with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in unnamed cities and various dimensions, the sci-fi action film “Everything Everywhere All at Once” features a cast of Asian and white characters (with a few Latinos) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A laundromat owner, who has troubled relationships with her husband and young adult daughter, finds out that she and other people she knows have different lives in other dimensions. 

Culture Audience: “Everything Everywhere All at Once” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching very unique and sometimes deliberately confusing movies with a time-travel component.

Stephanie Hsu, Ke Huy Quan, Michelle Yeoh and James Hong in “Everything Everywhere All at Once” (Photo by Allyson Riggs/A24)

The frenetic, genre-blurring “Everything Everywhere All at Once” sometimes tries too hard to be eccentric, but this highly innovative film stands out for refusing to play it safe. Get ready for a bumpy and bizarre ride. There’s so much hyperactive editing in the movie that speeds though different times and spaces, viewers might feel like they just went through the cinematic version of a psychedelic experiment after the movie is over.

Daniel “Dan” Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (also known as filmmaking duo Daniels) wrote and directed “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” which takes leaps and bounds across different genres, from to sci-fi to action in a mash-up of a comedic tone and a dramatic tone. At the core is the story of a family that is falling apart in the beginning of the film, and the family members find themselves gaining new perspectives when they discover what their lives would be like as other beings in different times and places. It’s not a film for people who want conventional structures in the movie. Underneath all the craziness in the movie is a story with a heartfelt message of love and acceptance.

“Everything Everywhere All at Once” starts off looking like it’s going to be a typical family drama. Evelyn Wang (played by Michelle Yeoh) is a domineering and stern matriarch who is trying to keep her family’s laundromat business afloat in the midst of some personal turmoil: Evelyn and her mild-mannered husband Waymond Wang (played by Ke Huy Quon) are at a breaking point in their marriage. Divorce papers have been drawn up, and the movie eventually reveals who was the one who filed for divorce.

Evelyn and Waymond live above the laundromat together. Evelyn’s father Gong Gong (played by James Hong), who has traditional Chinese views on life, has been staying with them for a visit. Evelyn and Waymond have a daughter in her early 20s named Diedre “Joy” Wang, who is an out-of-the-closet lesbian or queer woman. Joy (who tends to get easily irritated by her mother) has been happily dating laid-back Becky Sregor (played by Tallie Medel), who is accepted by Joy’s parents, even though Evelyn is afraid to tell Gong Gong that Becky is Joy’s girlfriend.

When Evelyn introduces Becky to Gong Gong, she describes Becky as Joy’s “good friend,” which upsets Joy. However, Joy doesn’t correct her mother about misleading Gong Gong about the true nature of Joy and Becky’s relationship. Evelyn and Joy have been having tensions over Joy thinking that Evelyn doesn’t completely accept who Joy is. And who can blame Joy for feeling this way? Evelyn is the type of mother who tells Joy: “You have to eat healthier. You’re getting fat.”

One day, the four members of the Wang family visit an IRS agent named Deirdre Beaubeirdra (played by Jamie Lee Curtis) in an audit meeting about their tax returns. Deirdre is a frumpy and grumpy accountant who becomes a little impatient at how the family doesn’t have some of the documents that she needs to complete her work. Evelyn is preoccupied with an upcoming party that she wants to have for the laundromat’s customers. One of the invited customers is someone whom Evelyn only calls Big Nose (played by Jenny Slate), who has a Pomeranian dog as her constant companion.

It’s at this IRS office that things start to get weird. Waymond takes Evelyn aside and tells her that he’s not really her husband but a being from another dimension who needs her help to save his world. Things happen with an umbrella, ear buds where people pick up various audio frequencies, giant black circles, and a slew of flat, plastic eyes (similar to rag doll eyes) that all take the story through various twists and turns. The being who says he’s not Waymond calls himself Alpha Waymond, and he comes from the Alphaverse.

Without giving away too much information, it’s enough to say that some of the various incarnations of the characters in the movie include two people who are live-in lovers and have hot dogs for fingers, so they have to do a lot of things with their feet; two people who become rocks and have silent conversations with each other; and a chef named Chad (played by Harry Shum Jr.), who has a raccoon living under his chef’s hat. There are fights involving martial arts, gun shoot-outs and some very strange rituals that might make some people squirm and/or laugh.

All of the cast members fully commit to the full range of wildly different characters that they have to portray in the film. Yeoh is the obvious standout because of Evelyn’s central story arc in the movie. Even for people with short attention spans, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” might be too much of a spectacle overload. But if you’re prepared for a unique cinematic experience and have the curiosity to absorb it all, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” might make you further appreciate filmmaking that takes bold risks.

A24 will release “Everything Everywhere All at Once” in select U.S. cinemas on March 25, 2022. A special one-night-only fan event will take place at select IMAX theaters in the U.S. (with cast members appearing in person at select locations) on March 30, 2022. The movie’s release expands to more U.S. cinemas on April 8. 2022.

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