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Everything Everywhere All at Once

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Dear God, ‘America’s Got Talent” is on every channel!

Synopsis: An ordinary woman finds herself taxed with re-aligning the multiverse –or something like that. (In theaters and available for streaming purchase as of June 16, 2022)

Evelyn has a lot to contend with… her husband seems foolish, she’s throwing a big party for her disapproving dad, she and her daughter have communication problems and she is in the midst of an Internal Revenue Service audit.  Additionally, she needs to bring the multiverse into alignment. Something she’d rather not get pulled into.

Evelyn Wang, played by the inimitable Michelle Yeoh, is the co-owner of a laundromat with her husband Waymond ( Ke Huy Quan).  As EEA@O begins, Evelyn is trouble shooting at the laundromat beneath their apartment and chastising her adult daughter, Joy (Stephanie Hsu) who is asking her mom if she can bring her girlfriend to grandpa’s party. Evelyn puts her off and instructs her to hurry and decorate the laundromat, which they’ll be using as a party space. Then she rushes back upstairs to wade through a boatload of receipts, looking for what she will need to bring to the IRS audit that day. With a lien against their properties, they are in deep water. (Okay, I will dispense with the nautical imagery.)

Evelyn, her partner, and dad (James Hong as Gong Gong) are off to the IRS. This is when things first get a little weird. On the elevator ride in the IRS building, Waymond opens an umbrella and, after consulting his cellphone, faces his wife and urgently instructs her that she must be ready for alternate planning. He cautions her to be ready. Ready for what?!

As a viewer, this is when you need to get ready. EEA@O is like a comic Matrix with Michelle Yeoh’s Evelyn subbing for Keanu Reeves’ Neo; with a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy vibe thrown in.  Some of what follows includes: a whitehole (the flipside of a blackhole), a mystical bagel (with everything on it) and different Evelyns arrayed across the multiverse.

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“How could I have forgotten that today is the office’s inaugural Casual Friday? That I lobbied for!”

At the IRS office, Evelyn’s husband Waymond’s  mind is accessed by another Waymond from the Alpha-verse. He explains that she is uniquely in a position to save the multiverse from impending chaos. Fighting breaks out when security guards and sort-of avatars from other universes go after Evelyn and Waymond. Fortunately, Grandpa is safe in the office kitchen enjoying some purloined pudding. Suddenly,  meek Waymond (commandeered by the rugged Alpha version of Waymond) brandishes his fanny pack as a weapon– such a versatile accessory.  He tells Evelyn she can get to it or not! She says she’ll just rest on the floor until things calm down.  Sounds sensible.

You are probably hoping that Michelle Yeoh breaks out some of her martial arts moves. She does!  Her mind accesses an action star version of Evelyn. Even better we are treated to a busy red carpet featuring Michelle Yeoh–or, Evelyn in another universe.  So glamourous!  And, appearing on the sidelines, a very dapper and alluring version of Waymond who catches Michelle-Evelyn’s eye. I’d watch a whole movie about this couple.

At first Evelyn is only fighting to survive, but when she learns that there is a delinquent version of her daughter Joy causing trouble in the multiverse, she gets bold for the sake of her family. I was hoping that mother and daughter could get into family therapy in one of the universes, but, instead there is fighting aplenty.  On the upside, we see Michelle in action and Joy (who reminded me of Raven Symone with her sly comic appeal) is dressed to the nines in everything from a Vegas Elvis getup to a blindingly white Alice in Wonderland Mad Queen ensemble courtesy of costumer Shirley Kurata.

Evelyn uses her mind to jump around the multiverse, accessing skills from other Evelyns. The idea is that individuals’ different choices in other universes lead them down different life paths. For example, in one universe Evelyn is a professional singer (in “our” universe she is an enthusiastic karaoke-ist). In another part of the multiverse, people have evolved to have boneless noodle fingers. Okay, I can buy a mystical bagel in outer space, but an evolutionary advantage to noodle fingers beggars belief.

As the movie rolls along we gain confidence in Evelyn and so does Evelyn herself, going from thinking herself “ordinary” to recognizing her everyday heroism. Which, hopefully, is enough to right the multiverse. Or at least get through her IRS audit.

Movie Loon’s Movie Review Shortcut:

Grade:   A-

Cut to the Chase: A fantastic Michelle Yeoh anchors an inventive and original story.

Humor Highlight:  Pixar’s Ratatouille is Raccacoonie in another universe in which a racoon helps a sushi chef, played with comic adeptness by Harry Shum, Jr.

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