Evelyn’s life is a total failure. She owns a laundromat that is being audited by the IRS. Her small, shabby apartment is rundown. Her husband is trying to find the right time to serve her divorce papers. Her daughter is desperately trying to have her mother accept her girlfriend and her elderly father has just arrived from China.
In a world where she could do anything, she has somehow chosen every wrong move along the way to be the very worst version of herself possible. This is exactly why she is chosen to help save the world.
You see, there’s not just one Evelyn, but countless Evelyn’s across the multiverse. Each lives a completely different life due to choices she made throughout her life.
From a martial artist to a famous movie star to an absurd universe where she has hot dogs for fingers (yes, you read that right), our Evelyn can hone in on the various skills these other Evelyn’s possess in their universes in order to save humanity from the evil Jobu Tupaki: an alternate universe’s version of her daughter, Joy.
If that brief plot description sounds absolutely insane to you, that’s not even the half of it.
While the concept of “the multiverse” has been explored in recent superhero outings like “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” no film has been able to expertly explain the technicalities of this abstract and intricate setting quite like “Everything Everywhere All at Once” manages to do. The film never gets too complicated in its plot as it moves from universe to universe with ease. This primarily has to do with the film having one of the most original and innovative scripts in recent years, written by the collaborating duo known as Daniels.
Known for their 2016 surreal feature film debut “Swiss Army Man,” Daniels (Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert) crafted a script that is insanely over-the-top. It can have the audience laughing at a scene involving a suggestively shaped trophy, to crying at a scene involving two rocks in a matter of minutes. It’s difficult in a film like this to change gears so quickly, but Daniels are masters of the craft and showcase exactly why they are some of the freshest and most sought-after voices working in Hollywood today.
Even when balancing themes that deal with nihilism, generational and cultural differences to the heavier and more philosophical topic of the meaning of life, Daniels’ script manages to never miss a beat. This is partially due to expert editing which keeps this 2 hour and 20-minute adventure flowing from scene-to-scene.
No scene goes to waste and no moment overstays its welcome. The comedy bits are not in-your-face funny but are situationally humorous. Daniels are not trying to belittle and demean the audience’s intelligence because one can clearly see they are putting their hearts into a movie that they would enjoy watching themselves.
While Daniels involvement is key to the film’s success, the real heart of the film comes in the form of Michelle Yeoh’s incredible performance as Evelyn. An acting legend, having appeared in “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon” and “Crazy Rich Asians,” Yeoh constantly ups the ante in each of her films and outdoes herself in this role. She blends into each universe’s version of Evelyn so effortlessly that it makes the film and her character’s thoughts and actions so much more convincing.
In a role that was originally written for Jackie Chan, Yeoh provides her best performance to date that will surely make her a fierce contender in next year’s awards conversation.
In a way, the film plays almost like a Charlie Kaufman film due to not only its originality, but also like a “Jackass” film with its absurdity. The fact that the film only cost $25 million to produce and a team of just five special effects artists crafted this acid trip of a film is mindboggling. The best way to describe “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is if Harmony Korine directed a new adaptation of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
The film lives up to its title as it has something for everyone: action, comedy, drama and romance. It provides universal lessons on kindness, compassion and empathy. As another universe’s version of Evelyn’s husband, Waymond, tells her, “We’re all useless alone. It’s a good thing you’re not alone.”
“Everything Everywhere All at Once” deals with the infinite, but it always circles back to these intimate moments that show how this film also wears its heart on its sleeve.