Format: Blu-ray from Sycamore Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen.
A few months ago, trying to catch up on all of the MCU stuff that I haven’t watched. I tried to watch Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, but since I hadn’t watched WandaVision at the time, I realized I couldn’t follow what was happening. And so, I stopped, figuring I’d get back to it someday. But there was already a multiverse movie I could watch that didn’t have all of the necessary required viewing. That movie is Everything Everywhere All at Once.
I tend to focus on narrative in these reviews because it’s narrative that I find most interesting in movies and in general. I’m interested in story. Normally, that works, but for Everything Everywhere All at Once (which I will start shortening to EEAaO), where the story truly is the thing that this is entirely about, there’s so much that I don’t know where to start. This movie is all story, but that story is so complicated that I don’t think I can do it justice without spending several thousand words attempting to tease out all of the various threads of it. I’ll offer a few paragraphs, but I won’t go much more than that, because there’s just too much here.
Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh) owns a laundromat with her husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan, in a triumphant return to film). The two of them are in the middle of being audited, and it’s not going well, since Evelyn is convinced that the auditor, Deirdre Beaubeirdre (Jamie Lee Curtis) is out to get them. Also, Evelyn’s estranged father Gong Gong (James Hong) has come to live with them. She also has a difficult relationship with her daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu), in part because of her inability to accept Joy’s girlfriend Becky (Tallie Medel).
All of that seems pretty straightforward, but we also learn that there is an actual multiverse, and Evelyn is the key to it. Each element of the multiverse is created by different decisions and events. In one of them, Evelyn discovered a way to access other universes. In dealing with that, she used Joy to do much of the work, and eventually, Joy’s mind shattered to the point where she now experiences all of the universes constantly and simultaneously.
Joy goes by the name Jobu Tupaki and has set about going through the multiverse to eliminate Evelyn. She has also created something that the people trying to stop her believe will destroy the entire multiverse. The Evelyn of this world, as essentially the Evelyn who made all of the wrong choices throughout her life, is the one with the most potential to stop Jobu Tupaki.
A lot of the film’s story trades on the idea of people in the know being able to tap into other universes to gain the powers of the version of them that lives there. Needing fighting skills at one point, Evelyn is led to tap into a universe where she didn’t marry Waymond and instead became a famous Kung Fu movie actress. Over the course of the film, we will jump into a universe where she is a cartoon, a pinata, a rock, a teppanyaki chef, a sign spinner, an opera singer, and even a world where millions of years previously, human evolution ended with everyone having hot dog-like fingers.
EEAaO is, on the surface, all about the spectacle and the insanity of the multiverse worlds. A lot of this is lore building. The way to access a new universe is to engage in some very strange behavior that is statistically improbable but still likely. So, for instance, Evelyn puts her shoes on the wrong feet at one point. The Alpha version of Waymond eats a Chap-Stik. An attacking version of Deirdre staples a piece of paper to her own forehead. At one point, two people trying to stop Evelyn shove objects up their backsides, leading to a very oddly choreographed fight sequence.
Underneath all of this, though, is a story about people connecting with each other in a world that seems and feels out of control. All we have is ourselves and each other, ultimately, and so much of our energy is spent on anger and fear when, as Waymond’s philosophy ultimately tells us, we should really be kind, especially when we don’t know what is happening.
The cast is wonderful all the way through. I love seen James Hong still working well into his 90s, and I’m very pleased to see Ke Huy Quan return to acting—it’s as if he never lost a step, and he’s one of the best parts of the film. Jamie Lee Curtis looks like she’s having a great time through all of this. But ultimately, it stands or falls on Michelle Yeoh, and it absolutely stands on her. She is flawless, as she almost always is.
I enjoyed the hell out of this.
Why to watch Everything Everywhere All at Once: This is how you do a multiverse movie.
Why not to watch: Of all the realities we could live in, we live in this one.