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Sunday, November 27, 2022

Rate and Review: ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’ is a beautiful clash of multiversal sci-fi and family drama

The latest from Daniels is a wild and incredibly poignant story of a woman doing her taxes

This image released by A24 shows Stephanie Hsu, from left, Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan in a scene from "Everything Everywhere All At Once." (Allyson Riggs/A24)
This image released by A24 shows Stephanie Hsu, from left, Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan in a scene from "Everything Everywhere All At Once." (Allyson Riggs/A24)

When sitting down to watch “Everything Everywhere All at Once” for the first time, I honestly didn’t know what I was getting myself into. 

I was vaguely familiar with the directors Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan, collectively known as Daniels. Their first film, “Swiss Army Man,” a drama about a man stranded on an island befriending a washed-up dead body, was intriguing, but ultimately not my cup of tea.

The latest feature from Daniels, "Everything Everywhere All at Once," premiered March 25 at South by Southwest before its wide release April 8 to critical praise. 

Described by the filmmakers as “a hilarious and big-hearted sci-fi action adventure,” the film is currently tied for the highest rated movie of all time on the popular film social media platform Letterboxd, garnering an average rating of 4.6 on a five-star scale as of April 21. 

Reviews aside, I entered auditorium seven at Regal Butler Town Center for an early screening April 7. I had an open mind and expectations rooted solely in the movie’s distribution company, A24. 

With films like controversial Oscars best picture winner “Moonlight,” “Lady Bird” and “The Tragedy of Macbeth,” the American entertainment studio boasts seven Academy Award wins and 34 nominations since its founding in 2012. A24 has revitalized the mainstream admiration of independent cinema with a reputation for making movies outside the norm of today’s Hollywood.

“Everything Everywhere All at Once” is no exception. About 30 minutes into watching the film, one of my friends leaned over to me and jokingly whispered, “This is so A24.” 

Choosing where to begin when discussing this film is honestly a tough task. “Everything Everywhere All at Once” drew out nearly every emotion from me. I described the feeling of walking into the theater, but it was my thoughts when I exited that truly stood out. 

I was in awe of what I had just watched.  

At the film’s core is a woman who is tired of living a mundane life. She yearns for something more, and dwells on past mistakes. Eventually, she learns to appreciate the people and situations already present.

Michelle Yeoh delivers one of the most dynamic leading performances I’ve ever seen as Evelyn Wang. Her ability to conquer intense action sequences and intimate conversations with such care is astounding. It would be a shame if she is not in the conversation for a best leading actress nomination at the 95th Academy Awards. 

All supporting performances are great as well. From delivering powerful lines to executing intricate fight choreography, each character gets a chance to shine. Acting wasn’t the only highlight of the film; the technical achievements, like the visual effects and score, are also easy to rave about. Above everything, however, is the writing and directing from Daniels. 

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How the duo thought of this concept, wrote the screenplay, pitched it to studios, got funding and then ultimately created the film blows my mind. The idea of a multiverse isn’t groundbreaking — it has actually gained notoriety in recent years thanks to Marvel entities. Yet, the way Daniels tackles it doesn’t feel like a gimmick, but more like a fleshed-out story-telling device. 

As Evelyn and her family, who own a failing laundromat, have their taxes audited, things take a turn for the weird. When entering an IRS office, the consciousness of Waymond Wang, Evelyn’s husband contemplating divorce, is taken over by another version of himself from a different universe. 

The adventure spirals from there, including fanny-pack beatdowns, hot dog fingers and hilarious “Ratatouille” references. The action is on par with any big-budget flick and the gags hit harder than anything billed as a pure comedy. 

Amidst the chaos, though, come moments of true catharsis. 

Throughout the film, Evelyn is in constant conflict — with Waymond, with her father and especially with her daughter, Joy. As the narrative unfolds, Evelyn’s primary objective becomes to save her and Joy's fractured relationship. 

She cannot mend their bond alone, but the conversation the mother and daughter have while in a serene setting and an uncommon state is one of the most profound moments I’ve ever seen in a film. 

It’s a moment that pushes the film to a new depth. It’s symbolic but relatable all the same. 

Sometimes you just feel like a rock on a cliff, ready to roll off. 

Just as everything begins to deteriorate, Waymond, split between two universes, begins to speak. His monologue holds the weight of the film. It drives home Daniels’ message with just a few minutes of eloquent writing and equally brilliant delivery from Ke Huy Quan. 

Waymond’s message is so complex, but also so simple: Be kind. 

“Everything Everywhere All at Once” packs a punch of emotion, and the themes linger with you long after the credits finish rolling. The film has made me ponder how I approach life. I pose the questions to myself: Am I kind? Do I aspire to be kind? How can I be more kind? What does being kind even look like? 

Rarely does a film make me think this much, truthfully forcing me to reevaluate how I approach every day. I consider many movies masterpieces, but when one compels me to break down the nuances of my heart, that transcends being a masterpiece. 

I write all this to urge people to go see this film. Reflect on the way you live and the way you interact with those you love. Revisiting “Everything Everywhere All at Once” will be something I do often. Not only because it is some of the most fun I’ve had watching a screen, but because the film makes me want to be better. 

Maybe being kind may make me seem more naive, but I’m reminded that it is strategic and necessary. 

It’s how I want to fight. 

Rate: 10/10

Contact Joseph Henry at jhenry@alligator.org. Follow him on Twitter @Josephhenry2424.

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Joseph Henry

Joseph Henry is a fourth-year sports journalism major and is the Alligator's sports editor. He previously worked as senior news director, assistant sports editor, men's basketball beat reporter, volleyball beat reporter and golf beat reporter. He enjoys sitting down to watch a movie as often as possible, collecting vinyl and drinking Dr. Pepper. 


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