Everything Everywhere All at Once

Everything Everywhere All at Once ★★★★★

I had my mind blown and my heart shattered by Everything Everywhere All at Once, the maximalist masterpiece by writer-directors Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, aka Daniels, so incredible, amazing, and extraordinary it has reduced me to burbling hyperbole. Though they are a duo, their follow-up to Swiss Army Man confirms them to be singular visionary geniuses who have graduated from making emotionally affecting farts to making emotionally affecting...hot dog fingers?? They excel at wringing both high drama and emotional resonance out of the most absurd things by grounding the silliness in relatable humanity. This film is like...The Matrix meets The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Or perhaps, as a friend put it, Cloud Atlas meets Rick and Morty. Maybe it's Sense8 meets Promare. Speed Racer meets Fringe? There's undoubtedly some Wachowski DNA in here given its meld of heady sci-fi and unvarnished sentimentality (okay, a little varnish in some of its funniest moments but not when it counts). It would take thousands of words to unpack all the references and homages scattered throughout—there's a fucking universe that's shot like a Wong Kar-wai film, for instance—but far from being derivative, it's wildly original and gloriously unpredictable because no one else but these fuckers would DARE attempt to do this shit. It's full of so many surprises I don't want to say too much, especially because you wouldn't even believe me if I told you half the things that happen in this movie. On one level, it is the story of a Chosen One who must find her inner strength and confidence in order to defeat a nigh omnipotent villain who threatens to destroy the entire multiverse. On another level, it's the story of a woman who must find her inner love for her husband, daughter, and father in order to live a fully realized and content life in her universe. The Daniels deftly balance the epic scope of the science fiction and the intimacy of the family drama, juxtaposing utterly absurd action scenes with utterly devastating conversations between loved ones. While the first half hour or so may feel a bit conventional in its storytelling, introducing this Chinese-American family who owns a laundromat and has some conflicts before someone from another universe arrives to tell the main character she's the most special person in all the universes, the movie gradually moves further away from that tried-and-true take on this concept and swings for all the goddamn fences. Once it gets going, it never flags for a second, and I was just riveted for the next two hours and change, either laughing my ass off, smiling in glee, clapping with joy, widening my eyes at the IMAX-enhanced grandeur, or crying my eyes out at this deliriously inventive film. As you'd expect, it's a real treat to see all the actors playing different versions of themselves as we see so many other universes, and some of them have their own subplots that Michelle Yeoh must resolve because look, the movie is not called Some Things in a Single Location One After the Other. Yeoh, of course, plays the most different versions of herself, but since the nature of the film means we rarely see those other versions in isolation, it's really her performance as the protagonist that shows her skills, as we watch her change subtly throughout the film as she grows more confident, and she nails emotional dialogue in both Cantonese and English. Ke Huy Quan (Short Round himself!) is more overtly impressive as he has to constantly shift between Yeoh's mild-mannered husband and her 'verse-jumping Morpheus, and it's astonishing to watch his body language change. James Hong is still killing it at fucking NINETY-THREE, but holy shit, I've never seen Stephanie Hsu before, but she's fantastic as Yeoh's daughter, a lost soul who gets some of the best material in the film that really cuts to the bone. Also I have to mention Jamie Lee Curtis, who's having a ball here and provides a connection to Knives Out, which I thought of during a particular monologue. All of these characters exist in multiple universes because multiversal theory dictates that every choice you make spawns a new universe in which you made a different choice. And here, you are able to see the paths not taken, which taps into what we do all the time without being able to actually KNOW where those paths lead. It's a perfect metaphor, and the film explores the tyranny of choice, the discontent resulting from obsession with what we don't have instead of appreciating what we do have. Cinematographer Larkin Seiple and the production design and costuming team create visually dazzling images over and over, and Paul Rogers's editing is unreal, truly suggesting the possibilities of the infinite multiverse. This will be a film people go through frame by frame once it hits Blu-ray. And, shit, the martial arts action with fucking weird weapons kept eliciting spontaneous crowd applause, it's just so creative and fun. Son Lux's post-rock score adds texture, and it's mixed with evocative classical music. This is such a bold and ambitious film that, despite reveling in being strange, never forgets that it's ultimately just a story about one family, and in the climax the emotional cores all go nuclear and I could barely keep myself from becoming a sobbing mess. This is why movies are great, because they can do this like no other medium can, combining story and character and visuals and sound and everything everywhere all at once to produce something profoundly deep, deeply affecting, genuinely thrilling, and fucking hilarious.

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