“Everything, everywhere, all at once” is your standard multiverse martial arts movie about filing your taxes and regretting quarantine in which wide-eyed, all that bagels and fanny packs play vital supporting roles and portals to parallel existences are opened not with a spell but with plugs and paper cuts.
The film, which hits theaters on Friday, is from Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, the filmmaking duo known as ‘The Daniels’, whose debut film pals ‘Swiss Army Man’ shared the starred with Daniel Radcliffe as a very flatulent corpse. .
“Everything, everywhere, all at once” is more ambitious. It’s possible the distance has never been greater between the mundane storyline of a movie—in this case, a Chinese immigrant laundromat owner trying to file her taxes—and what extreme form Rarely does a trip to the IRS n gave rise to digressions as cosmic and metaphysical as in “Everything Everywhere at Once”, an ancient, anarchic and yet moving film with the rotation cycle set to supercollision.
“The universe is so much bigger than you think,” says Joy (Stephanie Hsu), daughter of Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh), at one point in the film.
And while “Everything Everywhere All at Once” (a film that lives up to its title) may border on overload, it’s that liberating sense of limitless possibility that the film leaves you filled with, both in its freewheeling, all is playful and surprisingly tender in its portrayal of existential despair. Quite a feat for a film that relies on properly formatted tax receipts.
In the film’s chaotic opening moments, Evelyn tosses piles of papers around the apartment she shares with her kind but naive husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan, the actor famous for playing Short Round in “Temple of Doom” and Data in “The Goonies”) before the impending visit of his disapproving father (James Hong, now 93 but no less lively), while tending to the needs of the laundromat customers downstairs. At the same time, Joy introduces her girlfriend, a mark Evelyn doesn’t want her father to hear. Their strained relationship is made even clearer when Evelyn chases Joy through the parking lot for what appears to be a warmer exchange. Instead, she blurts out that Joy needs to eat less.
The dissatisfaction, we immediately grasp, is that of Evelyn. Divorce papers are circulating. Yeoh, extraordinary here, plays a frustrated and disoriented Evelyn, bitter that her life turned out to be a circle of laundry and taxes. Something has gone terribly wrong. When she, Waymond, and her father go to visit the IRS auditor (Jamie Lee Curtis), their mundane reality begins to crack in ways that examine the choices Evelyn has made leading up to this scattered moment.
There at the IRS, as Evelyn half listens to how she could lose her business, a metaverse takes hold. A more capable version of Waymond from another dimension (the “alpha-verse”) pulls her aside to warn her of a new evil that is tearing apart the many levels of existence that he explains all have. been created by every decision Evelyn has ever made. . Spider-Man merged planes from roughly similar superhero realms, but Evelyn’s multiverse is an infinite matrix of what could have been.
I may make the sound of “Everything Everywhere All at Once” sound clearer than it looks. These things can be explained, but the rhythm is never hectic. And while most sci-fi movies stick to the rules that govern these splintered worlds, Daniels’ film simply takes what’s at hand to blast the verses. It’s a series of Charlie Kaufman-esque absurd worlds that connect Evelyn to other versions of how her life might have turned out, for example, if she hadn’t married Waymond. In one, Evelyn is a famous movie star – basically Yeoh, herself – with footage from her “Crazy Rich Asians” premieres. another later in life.
But many alternate realities are gleefully ridiculous. In one, people move around with hot dogs for their fingers, letting them play Chopin with their feet. Another is a wild riff on “Ratatouille”, only, thanks to Evelyn’s mispronunciation, it’s with a raccoon for a little chef.
As limitless as “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is, it’s a pretty claustrophobic movie – the multiverses mostly collide in Evelyn’s current reality. of the girl who causes all the problems in the different universes. And as absurd as things get, the film impressively focuses on working through the deep pains and pangs of meaninglessness that fuel all the havoc. The performances, one way or another, are no weak link in the cast, but it’s a special joy to see – and hear – Quan again. His constant gentleness is perhaps the film’s deepest reservoir of feelings.
Frenetically edited cinema isn’t always polished, but it’s not always meant to be either. There are echoes of films like “Kung Fu Hustle” and the chaotic irreverence shares some DNA with the same Phil Lord and Chris Miller films. But “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” about a woman struggling to make sense of her messy little life, is clearly its own thing. Alongside bigger, shinier metaverses and more sensible films, “Everything Everywhere” stands as an antidote to the algorithm. It is an absurd and tasteless ode to the messy and absurd struggle and happiness of being human.
“Everything Everywhere All at Once,” an A24 theatrical release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for certain acts of violence, sexual material and language. Duration: 139 minutes. Three and a half out of four stars.
Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP