Everything Everywhere All at Once

Everything Everywhere All at Once ★★★★½

“Everything Everywhere All At Once” carries a surprising sci-fi staidness for the loony directors behind “Swiss Army Man,” until a character, after ingesting a chock full of pink chapstick, magically becomes a martial arts master, decimating the security guards patrolling a drab IRS office in the process. In Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s bold and boundless, nihilist multiverse spectacle, the co-directors known as the Daniels gleefully reference “The Matrix,” “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon,” “2001: A Space Odyssey,” and the works of Wong Kar-wai to give the legendary Michelle Yeoh her most demanding, and possibly most fulfilling role, yet. It may come as a shock, then, how ordinary her character initially seems. 

Dashed dreams, crushing alienation, generational gaps, and language barriers typically color immigrant-centered narratives. Evelyn Wang (Yeoh), a weary Chinese immigrant, is no different. Risking her father (James Hong) disowning her, she arrived with her naïve husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan) to America with the hope of running a successful laundromat. Decades later, now deep in debt, she despises the limited life fashioned by her dweeby husband and is stuck taking care of her sullen father. The manic script certainly concerns these troubles, but discovers its richest proportions in a mother-daughter relationship that appears so beyond repair it might rupture the universe — and the fractured multidimensional war that could, against all odds, spell familial peace.    

Leaning on the expected eccentricities of “Swiss Army Man,” could’ve easily relegated “Everything Everywhere All At Once” as a hollow spectacle for spectacle’s sake. Instead, the filmmakers work against their instincts by nurturing expansive emotions before embracing crazed absurdity. The first act smartly suggests the myriad ways Evelyn is cracking, sharply enumerating her blindspots. For instance: when her lesbian daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu in a breakout role) arrives with her girlfriend Becky (Tallie Medel), the homophobic Evelyn introduces the latter to her old fashioned father as Joy’s “friend.” It’s a move that decimates Joy. “Everything Everywhere All At Once” is overstuffed and grandiose, sometimes too proud of its ridiculousness, but its epic scale and bombastic storytelling signals how fearless filmmaking can translate to breathtaking results. Because every second, and every frame of “Everything Everywhere All At Once” brims with the audacity and pathos of The Wachowskis, told by the Daniels. [full review via The Playlist]

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