It seems almost sacrilegious to loudly proclaim that Everything Everywhere All at Once offers the always incomparable Michelle Yeoh the role of a lifetime, yet here I am almost so bewildered by the wonder that is this sci-fi hopester of a film finding no other words that adequately describe the brilliance that is Yeoh in a film that only the fine folks at A24 could possibly find a way to market that actually makes sense.
A few weeks ago, I proudly declared that The Batman was the superhero film I'd been waiting for my entire life. I meant it with every fiber of my being. Yet, here we are now in this film that isn't exactly a superhero film but exists on the same plane in a multiverse that's nearly impossible to explain and now I'm saying it once again with emphasis - Everything Everywhere All at Once is the superhero film I've been waiting for my entire life.
Yet, it's also true that Everything Everywhere All at Once isn't exactly a superhero film.
Everything Everywhere All at Once had a million reasons it should have failed. The Daniels, co-writers/directors Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, swing for the rafters in Yankee Stadium and somehow land thousands of miles away in Dodger Stadiumwith this cinematic beast and wonder still fully intact frayed only by loose edges and such ballsy spirit that even its imperfections should be celebrated.
Does any of that actually make sense? Probably not. That's the point.
Everything Everywhere All at Once works precisely because this extraordinary ensemble cast went along for the ride and surrendered to a vision I refuse to believe they fully understood. Instead, I have to believe they read the script and said "This is nuts! I have to be a part of it!"
Everything Everywhere All at Once is an arthouse film destined for greatness. It's the kind of film that will be watched for years to come and we'll likely end up wondering how The Batman makes hundreds of millions of dollars while A24 tiptoes Everything Everywhere All at Once into theatres hoping that audiences will find it and be willing to take a chance on this unique, completely bonkers vision that damn well better be mentioned come awards season.
Everything Everywhere All at Once is satisfying in just about every single way that a movie can satisfy. Heck, I may have had an orgasm smack dab in the middle of it. It's dizzying and chaotic and action-packed and beautifully choreographed and an absolute visual delight while also, somehow, also being emotionally resonant and the kind of film that leaves you feeling better about movies and life and family and relationships and superheroes.
There are movies that make you believe in movies. Everything Everywhere All at Once is absolutely one of them, an original vision in a Hollywood increasingly prone to repetition and redundancy.
There are moments that take your breath away and there are moments that give you that very same breath back.
In the midst of it all is Michelle Yeoh, a Malaysian actress who cut her acting teeth on Hong Kong action flms before Hollywood discovered here even if that same Hollywood has never quite figured out how to truly bring her talent to life.
This is it. This is really, really it.
It would be nearly impossible to click with every single moment in Everything Everywhere All at Once, but that hardly matters. The Daniels are trying to say a lot here and just about the time you think the film is one thing it becomes something else.
Theoretically, Yeoh is Evelyn here but it's quickly apparent that means a whole lot more than we think it's going to mean. This is a multiverse and before long Evelyn becomes Evelyns and somehow, I have no idea how, Yeoh makes them all work.
My god, this performance is a thing of beauty.
Yeoh's Evelyn is exhausted but doesn't know it. She runs a struggling laundry and a family she doesn't always notice alongside her husband, Waymond (Ke Huy Quan). We're given the rules, though they seldom make sense and even by the time we figure out that Evelyn is some sort of Chosen One we're not completely sure what that really means.
We do know that it somehow involves trying to finish her taxes and an IRS office complete with Jamie Lee Curtis being the most un-Jamie Lee Curtis like that we've ever seen her be before.
It's absurd and it's brilliant.
In the MCU, Everything Everywhere All at Once would have gone wildly broad in search of larger than life action and larger than life laughs. The Daniels, however, are completely aware that what's going to make us surrender to this universe is if we really groove with our universe of Evelyns.
Clearly, Michelle Yeoh agrees and it's difficult to imagine any other actress pulling off this kaleidoscope of chaos.
There are times that Everything Everywhere All at Once goes off the rails only to somehow get back on track. The Daniels take the kitchen sink approach to filmmaking here, though even when it doesn't all work it somehow still works and it somehow reinfroces what is, in fact, a multiverse motion picture with deep, universal meaning. Everything Everywhere All at Once is very much about finding peace within this chaos and within the imperfections and achieving our own version of greatness anyway.
I don't know how. It works. It just works.
I've already said that Yeoh is brilliant here. She offers what is easily one of the year's best performances and it's not even close. However, it's also hard to understate just how vital a strong ensemble cast is here and just how strong this ensemble cast is here. Stephanie Hsu shines as Evelyn's daughter Joy, a stand-out performance in a sea of stand-out performances. Ke Huy Quan somehow manages to hold his own with Yeoh, no small challenge here, and allows Waymond's true self to shine through no matter how many iterations of him we get. A former child star, Quan's work here should return him to the status of household name.
Everything Everywhere All at Once isn't for everyone, though it should be. If you're unable to surrender to it, it may very well end up feeling like an overwhelming experience. I practically beg you to hang with it because this is a film that becomes something so incredibly special including a closing chapter that amps up the emotional resonance with some of the most satisfying scenes I've been witness to in quite some time. Yeoh, Hsu, and Quan all masterfully balance action sequences with emotional integrity and they all three turn in performances that have me gasping still. Longtime character actor James Hong, as well, is remarkable in support and practically commands every scene he's in.
Both Jamie Lee Curtis and Jenny Slate find their places in this universe and truly, truly shine.
Jamie Lee Curtis is truly a legend. Truly.
It would be difficult to fully describe Everything Everywhere All at Once and this review can't and won't even fully try. This is a film that accomplishes so much in terms of sci-fi and action while also making all of these things center around the people in this universe and the stories of their lives. This is a film that practically begs us to not give into the tempting forces of hopelessness and cynicism and practically calls us into human connection and love sweet love.
I said it a few weeks ago. I was wrong.
Everything Everywhere All at Once is the superhero movie I've been waiting for my entire because, perhaps, it is the first superhero film to have the balls to remind us that it may very well be us who are the superheroes.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic