Saturday, January 14, 2023

REVIEW: Everything Everywhere All At Once

In 2016, Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (also known as the Daniels) emerged on the film scene with their bizarre farting corpse comedy "Swiss Army Man". Earning a Best Director award - and numerous other awards in the year to come - after their Sundance premiere, the duo instantly announced themselves as directors to watch. But I'm sure I speak for many of us when I say nothing could have prepared us for what they delivered next. With their sophomore effort "Everything Everywhere All At Once" they have solidified their trademark absurdist style while crafting an epic fantasy tale that is at once deliriously entertaining and emotionally stirring.

"Everything Elsewhere All At Once" stars Michelle Yeoh as Evelyn, a middle-aged Chinese immigrant living in the United States, where she runs a laundromat with her meek husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan). After a largely unsatisfying life together, their marriage is on the rocks, exacerbated by the threat of losing their business following an imminent meeting with an IRS agent (played with reckless abandon by Jamie Lee Curtis). Meanwhile, their lesbian daughter desperately seeks the approval of her mother and her equally uptight grandfather, who is due to arrive for his birthday party. Naturally, the entire family is on edge, but their anxieties pale in comparison to the apocalyptic whirlwind to come, as Evelyn is sucked into an elaborate multiverse by an alternate version of Waymond who recruits her to stop an all-powerful villain embodied by her own daughter.

The subsequent adventure is a thrilling tour de force of bravura acting and inspired filmmaking. You can't take your eyes off the central trio portraying the Wang family, who are equally brilliant in conveying multiple personalities. Stephanie Hsu showcases vulnerability and swagger, while Ke Huy Quan brings both unassuming charm and frenetic energy to his alter egos. And at the center is a superlative Michelle Yeoh, who summons all her grace, athleticism, vulnerability and charisma as she reinvents the trope of "The One" who is destined to save the world. It's truly a remarkable performance that she never overplays, effortlessly showing her movie star chops while acting as an audience surrogate through Evelyn's constant befuddlement.

Indeed, audiences who attempt to fully analyze the labyrinthine - and times, downright silly - plot will be equally confused. The Daniels throw everything on the table, as if this is the last movie they'll ever make. There's romance, kung fu action, family drama and myriad outrageous plot points like pensive rocks and hot dog fingers that virtually beg you to abandon all reason. 

But through all the madness is a potent through-line that is threaded throughout. At its core, "Everything Elsewhere All At Once" is a poignant tale of a woman who finds purpose and fulfillment in her life, while she and her family learn to take responsibility for how their actions affect each other. In the end, all the chaos coalesces into a beautiful message of kindness, expressed in an utterly original and unforgettable package.

1 comment:

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