It won’t take long for the “WTF” phrase to come out of your mouth when you are watching this film. “Everything Everywhere All At Once” is basically a psychotic breakdown that we enter into in the middle. You will spend a good deal of the opening act trying to catch up with the premise, and also trying to catch your breath from a lot of laughter. While it may not all turn out to be coherent, by the end it makes enough sense for you to accept the wild ride you have been on, but you will also question the reality of the resolution of the story.
Six years ago, the two writer/directors of this film, Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, collaborated on the similarly weird “Swiss Army Man“, a film that put me off several times but then pulled me back in over and over. In much the same way, there were times when I would get frustrated with the quirky dialogue or odd actions of the characters, and I would start to think about why it was manipulative or a contrivance. Usually, just when I hit the point that I was ready to dismiss the movie as simply being a visual showpiece, something would show up to make me interested again. My love for “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension” , reminded me several times that what at first may be off putting, can quickly become essential. I have no idea why the IRS has an award that is basically a butt plug, but I also have no idea what that watermelon is doing there.
This is a showpiece for actress Michelle Yeoh, who has been killing it in Asian based martial arts films for years, and continues to do good dramatic work as well. This film gives her a chance to do both things really well in a lot of different situations. She also has impeccable comic timing, delivering a droll line or cryptic word at just the right moment. Ke Huy Quan, who was “Short Round” in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”, is now a middle aged man who gets a very solid role that he handles extremely well. Sometimes he is the sweet natured version of Yeoh’s Evelyn’ husband. In other universes, he is smooth and successful, manic and committed and a bad ass. Also, a shout out to 92 year old James Hong who gets a chance to bring his A game to a movie for more than just a brief scene.
The premise takes the idea of a multiverse and mashes it together with some strange technology and a Matrix-like like adversary. There is a turn in the story when suddenly, the plot seems like it is much more about a mother/daughter relationship than the meaning of the universe. There is a lot of repetition on some of these philosophical quests, and sometimes the action scenarios seem to be a bit long as well. The fakeout ending of the film about two thirds of the way through, is going to catch a lot of people unaware, because the concept does feel played out at that point. The last third of the film has some funny moments but it did feel dragged out.
There is so much inventive film technique in the movie that you can be a little overwhelmed by it. Overlaid images, split screen, time lapse, quick edits, near subliminal moments and wire work in slo-motion, as well as dozens of other tools I can’t begin to name. “Everything Everywhere All At Once” is certain to delight film fans but it may frustrate narrative purists to some degree. I will say that it has the best use of Rocks and Raccoons since Guardians of the Galaxy. Have fun, don’t try too hard to figure out what the hell is going on and what it all means. And when Michelle Yeoh and Jamie Leigh Curtis get hot dog fingers, try not to lose your mustard.