Monday, September 5, 2022

Everything Bagel

Film: Everything Everywhere All at Once
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.


  1. I keep hearing great things about this film as I do hope to see this before the end of the year.

    1. It's the right way to do a multiverse movie. Doctor Strange can suck it.

  2. I'm glad you liked this too! I never thought THIS would be the best Multiverse movie of the year. Sorry, Doctor Strange...

    1. And it's not hard to figure out why. Doctor Strange is spectacle first, story second. This is story first, spectacle second--so the spectacle means more because we care about the characters more.

  3. I feel like this film is somewhat of a make-or-break moment for the Academy: if this doesn't get nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actress at the absolute least (not to mention a slew of other categories), to say that the reputation of the Academy will be all but gone (as much as it may already be) will probably be putting it lightly. This film represents everything the Academy needs to acknowledge more of in order to avoid secluding itself on their pantheon (and has said a few times that it has wanted to acknowledge more of), and nominating it in the major categories will and should be the first step of them publicly backing up their words and their promises towards a myriad of things, from diversity in film to a wider berth of creative decisions in directing (and writing) to avoiding the stigma of "Oscar bait" or "Oscar season" (this came out in March) to honoring the below-the-line industry workers and the categories they get nominated in, to name just a few. I would personally go farther and say that this should win all three of those categories as well as a few others; Best Directing for the Daniels, in particular, should be so much of a foregone conclusion at this point that it actually makes me angry whenever I come across award season projections or articles that don't have them at the top of the odds board or as the projected winner. What this film manages to pull off with its script, how its written, how it manages to have everything it does in terms of plot/narrative, drama, humor, dialogue and visual storytelling, as well as how the Daniels not only made it all work but work to such a level and extent as they did in the finished film absolutely boggles the mind. I could go on at length about this film and everything in it (and I probably will when this inevitably gets added to the 1001 list), but it will be very telling going into awards season into early next year if the Academy, like just about every other institution nowadays, is just all talk like so many have dismissed them as, or if they're able to do the bare minimum in rewarding the films and the people behind them that deserve to be rewarded & that they've said they will do more for in the future.

    This film is a goddamn miracle, and I'll be genuinely upset if it goes as ignored or slighted in getting & winning the nominations it should as part of me is still fearful that it will.

    1. I agree with pretty much everything here. It's worth saying again, as I have a number of times, that what I do with the Oscar categories I review here, that the Oscar Got It Wrong posts are not a celebration but a reckoning. The Academy, for as much as the political right has a hard-on for whining about how much Hollywood is liberal, is incredibly reactionary with what it wants to praise. Parasite winning a couple of years ago was a huge shock in a good way, but one award a couple of years ago does not a serious change indicate. Oscar is still incredibly white and still incredibly male, and still hates anything that strays too far outside of its category of message movies that are "important" and "about things."

      If I had to bet money, I'm guessing it will come up as a goose egg come the major awards come nomination time, because lip service and a feel-good win or two outside of the box is a lot easier than actual, meaningful change.