Everything Everywhere All at Once

Everything Everywhere All at Once ★★★★½

When the directing duo collectively known merely as Daniels (Kwan and Scheinert) burst onto the scene in 2016 with Swiss Army Man, a tenderly surreal comedy in which Paul Dano acts opposite Harry Potter as a farting corpse, we all knew we were witnessing a pair of filmmakers with absolutely no qualms about karate chopping our accepted notions of cinematic decency. Of course, many of us were unaware that we had all already witnessed this dynamic duo in action two years prior, when the music video for DJ Snake's "Turn Down for What" shattered the internet for a hot moment. (Truly the voices of a generation!) What that video didn't show us though, and what became apparent with their Dano/Radcliffe A24 vehicle, was Daniels' ability to balance that level of unparalleled crude shenanigans with a surprising amount of emotional weight. Swiss Army Man was no fluke in that regard, and Everything Everywhere All at Once cranks the dial—for both ridiculousness and heart—so far beyond their feature debut that the speakers in question are liable to spring to life with a pair of googly eyes and declare war on every pair of human genitals that they could jab with relentless fury, only to caress them lovingly afterwards.

If that description strikes you as far too obscene for your taste, then perhaps this isn't the film for you. Then again, Everything Everywhere All at Once seems to have found the perfect wavelength upon which it can ride through every multiverse, seemingly pleasing everyone along the way. What Daniels accomplish here is a testament to limitless ambition on a relatively condensed scale. The universe-jumping on display takes advantage of so many disparate possibilities, and yet Daniels manage to keep it all roped in within a small group of actors and just enough worlds to live up to its title without collapsing on itself.

Leading this group of puppets is Michelle Yeoh, whose trademark physical adeptness and poise are here, respectively, embraced wholeheartedly and thrown out the window almost entirely. Yeoh gives this role, just as Daniels give everything else in this movie, 110%, launching her entire existence into each increasingly ludicrous task hurled her way. In this regard, Yeoh gets a chance to show off her glamorous and goofy sides in... well, I wouldn't say equal measure. In fact, I wouldn't even give it a 30/70 split. She... she gets to show off some versatility is what I'm saying, even if 8 times out of 10, that versatility is invoked by a butt plug-shaped auditor's trophy rather than a flowing ballroom gown. Special shout-outs go to Ke Huy Quan, Stephanie Hsu and Jamie Lee Curtis who meet Yeoh's challenge, but this is just such a far cry from the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon-ness that we're all so familiar with from the actress—while still somehow fitting into that mould—that her standing out the most is just an inevitability.

At its centre, Everything Everywhere All at Once is a monumental achievement in the sheer fact that it exists. References to Ratatouille shouldn't fit so seamlessly alongside Wong Kar-wai homages, but with Daniels, every rambling thought can be transformed into a poignant tapestry of familial bonds and existentialism. But with such a hefty tapestry, the seams start to tear only marginally in that, for such an ambitious and briskly paced project, every minute of its weaving is felt.

The desire that Daniels have to extend such a premise to its limits, building a massive climax around these fluttering fixture points, eventually becomes like watching a street performer juggling chainsaws for 45 minutes; it's unbelievably impressive but, after enough time, undeniably exhausting to witness. And yet, the way Daniels flip their proposed nihilistic view on its head by the end is a stroke of absolute genius, leaving you on a high in spite of your fatigue. Everything Everywhere All at Once may make recurring use of a particular forest critter, but in describing its overall impact, I find it useful to look towards the words of a neighbouring animal; the shaggy fox from Antichrist, who described this film perfectly in two words: "Chaos reigns."


2022 Ranked.

A24 Ranked.

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