Many years ago, I left my home state for the first time in my life alone. I’ve stayed over at friends’ houses, and I’ve gone to conventions nearby up until then, but this was the first time I was out, all on my own, with a group of friends I had either only known online or were just meeting on this trip. Despite any concerns that would be perfectly reasonable to have, it was a fantastic trip. But at the end of that trip, after meeting so many new acquaintances, trying so many new experiences, and forming a handful of long-lasting friendships, I had a bit of a trollish idea. On the final night with my main group of friends there, I pulled out my phone and played the outro song from the Playhouse Disney show Out of the Box. It was an obviously silly thing to do: end a long weekend of memories with a throwaway joke reference to a long canceled children’s show. But I didn’t play it ironically. When Tony and Viv say “So long, farewell, to you my friends. Goodbye for now, until we meet again.” I meant every part of those words with maximum sincerity despite the off beat source of them. And my friends could both recognize the ridiculousness, but also see through it to also recognize the sincere intent of that song. I made one of my friends tear up with that move, which made another do the same, and another, and then finally me. It was a pleasant moment that I thought of as soon as credits rolled on Everything, Everywhere, All At Once.

I am a massive goofball. I express myself with humor and antics more often than not, and as I get older, and the number of emotions I care to express continue to grow, I still use silliness as the spoonful of sugar to help the harder to express emotions go down. Judging only from the also entertaining Swiss Army Man and this film I’m talking about today, I bet directors Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan are of a similar disposition. There is so much wild ass shit in this movie. So many insane action set pieces, so many ridiculous sight gags, so many subversive narrative and presentational choices. But all of those gags and goofs not only have deeper emotional payoffs later in the movie, but they all help bring your guard down for the movie to reach out and touch the deepest depths of your soul. This movie is so existential and depressing that it could have easily been emotionally exhausting, but it never manages to be, while still giving it’s heavier themes the weight they deserve. It’s an impressive balance, and there’s a lot of work done on both sides of the scale to maintain it.

The performances from the cast carry so much of this movie to the heights it reaches. Ke Huy Quan as Waymond Wang is the first role I want to highlight because of just how impressed I was with his characterization. It was so refreshing to have a character as delightful and cheery as him be male, but also not be stereotyped as too weak to stand up for himself and recognize his own worth. I’ve heard the reasons he’s given for this being one of his first acting roles since his childhood, and I can see why this brought him back in front of a camera. His character is so rare to see in general, let alone played by a Vietnamese man. Stephanie Hsu as Joy Wang was also incredible. The way she embodied the relatable vulnerabilities and terrifying unsuspectedness of young adolescents made her absolutely mesmerizing to watch. Jamie Lee Curtis as Deirdre Beaubeirdra looked like she was clearly having the time of her life. Curtis is always fun to watch, but the way she gave herself up completely really helps the sincerity of this movie overall come through even more effectively.

And finally, I have to give it up for Michelle Yeoh as Evelyn Wang. I’ll admit, despite this movie really bringing her biggest fans out of the woodwork, Yeoh is not an actress I’m very familiar with, despite having seen or heard of a few of her films. But regardless, she knocked her role as Evelyn out of the goddamn park. She manages to both be an authentic feeling immigrant mother and impossibly skilled kung fu badass all at once while feeling like she’s at home as both. And the entire time, she does so with a certain grace and effortlessness that stands out. Like Curtis, she has several hilarious moments and intense action and she fully commits to both, but her dramatic scenes come off as heartachingly honest and real as well. The entire cast does great in their roles, even the ones I didn’t directly mention, but Yeoh truly is the emotional center of this movie and I can’t imagine it working so well without her to hold up the insanity and sentimentality with equal poise and skill.

And I would love to go on about the buckwild twists and turns in this plot, but I want to do my best to not spoil that for anyone. I only saw the original trailer before seeing the film, and it thankfully only showed just enough to set up the general tone and premise of the movie. And while I was still kept on my toes by the final product, I think it would be a positive to even hold those details as close to my chest as possible. But I will say that the movie is about an immigrant family, a woman who feels unfulfilled, and a multiversal call to action that not only shakes her world to the core, but infinite others as well. But despite all of the insane sci-fi aspects and improbable leaps of logic, the movie never forgets where its emotional core lies. 

Every moment of its A plot is referring back to its B plot and vice versa. And as someone who enjoyed their previous film, Swiss Army Man, well enough, I’m so impressed by how The Daniels have matured both in their filmmaking techniques but also in their ability to engage with deeper themes. This movie is still about a family and the world ending plot that unites them at the end of the day, but this movie also tackles existential dread and the weight of knowledge in a way I find strikingly relevant. I can’t tell you how often I think about how much information the minds of my generation are inundated with and if that is even a good thing. I can’t help but question if we were at all meant to know this much about this world, let alone other worlds in the case of this movie. And while it doesn’t engage with that concept completely, and thankfully so since the core narrative already there is so strong, I do love to see the struggle with that concept be portrayed on screen without it being completely bleak.

And to go back to how both plots tie so well into each other, the underlying lore of the multiverse in this movie is as absurd as it is brilliant. The script not only encourages Looney Tunes levels of wackiness, but there are strict lore centric reasons for all of it that ground it all in the world of this film. When folks wrote their obviously clickbait-y headlines about how this movie does multiverses better than Marvel, I cynically rolled my eyes a bit. It’s not because I look to Marvel as being the gold standard for sci fi concepts like this, but I felt like it was reductive to compare a movie like this, which was surely reaching to be so much more than just a profitable blockbuster, to a corporate franchise like Marvel. But when I left the theater, I found myself making similar comparisons. I now agree with those headlines without caveat, as even the fictional science behind the multiverses of Everything, Everywhere tie back into the core themes of the story in ways Marvel’s multiverse could only dream of. But I also agree because the multiverse concept is used way closer to its full potential here than in the MCU. The Dainels use this concept to try all kinds of spectacular ideas, but also all kinds of unique shots and out of the box visual and storytelling techniques. At every opportunity this movie has to zag, it zigs, and often in ways you would never expect because that wouldn’t align with how other movies like this have done it. And it makes for a film that is as much of an entertaining ride as it is a beautiful work of art.

And I think that’s why I love this movie enough to add it to my favorites on Letterboxd and stay up until almost 3 am writing this review right after seeing it. It’s one of those rare movies, or pieces of art in general, that is as playful as it is masterful, as hilarious as it is dramatic, and as epic as it is grounded. It’s a beautiful mixing pot of contradictions but the fact that they all world together make you question what’s possible. Our imaginations have taken us so far and this movie is proof they can take us so much farther still. Movies like Everything, Everywhere, All At Once remind me that the world is in no shortage of new ideas and possibilities, despite the stagnation of many aspects of everyday life. And I really do need movies like these every once in a while to remind me of that fact, because when I’m reminded of the beauty, joy, and excitement of those possibilities, it makes it a lot easier for me to not be afraid to explore those possibilities myself.

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