Prepare to be astonished by Everything Everywhere All at Once. Written and directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, collectively known as The Daniels, this visual wonder is the product of a fierce and fearless team whose ideas are unlike anything you’ve seen before.
Watching this film is akin to winning the lottery for cinephiles, especially those who find dark, strange, kinetic and eccentric movies to be in their wheelhouse. There’s a sense of discovery in every scene of this martial arts-driven comedy– in every performance, camera movement, parallel universe and comedic montage, from confetti-explosions to inventive kung-fu to oversized butt-plugs.
As those who saw The Daniels’ Swiss Army Man know, these guys aren’t afraid to get weird. A weaponized butt-plug? Why not? A universe where everyone has hot dog fingers? Bring it on. A standoff where the villain reaches into her holster for a gun but pulls out a dildo? We’re here for it. As the surprises keep coming, the movie keeps us on our toes and invested in the next LSD-inspired gag.
In the tradition of stoner cinema, Everything starts out simple enough. Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh) is a wife and mother who runs a laundromat, and stresses about her daughter’s desire to have a girlfriend, her father’s need to move and her auditor’s decision to collect. But then, something unexpected happens at the IRS office: her husband, Waymond (Key Hu Quan), transforms into a new person, and informs her that she’s actually part of a large, extended multiverse.
It’s like The Matrix if there were a million matrix’s– if each could be accessed by a wireless headset. In one, Evelyn’s a famous actress; in another, she’s a Chinese chef. In another, she’s in the world with hot dog appendages. In another, she’s a rock on a mountain. These universes whoosh together in a way that’s seamless and surprisingly poignant, with Evelyn’s daughter (Stephanie Hsu) being the villain who is trying to terminate all Evelyns, but not before she tells mom how she feels.
The Daniels’ script is grounded in reality–Evelyn and Joy’s (Hsu) relationship is 100% authentic– but it’s the bizarro aspects that stick with you. Still, the acting is splendid. There’s a hilarious supporting performance by Jamie Lee Curtis and a glorious central performance by Yeoh, who holds the movie in her hands and never lets go.
Everything Everywhere All at Once bears comparisons to the work of other artists who toy with surrealism, like Franz Kafka, Boots Riley and Charlie Kauffman. But there’s something tender and earnest at the core of this film, not just heart, but something sweeter and more playful. The bright, colorful, scattered center of Everything is like the confetti that bursts from people’s brains, a mind-blowing experience that’s also a party for the viewer to cherish, celebrate and consume. With this wacky, ambitious dramedy, The Daniels remind us that cinema can be so much more than what we settle for at multiplexes these days. It can be everything, everywhere, all at once.