Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022)
Directed by Daniels
Starring Michelle Yeoh, Stephanie Hsu, Ke Huy Quan, James Hong and Jamie Lee Curtis
By Tim Basaraba
The little film that could. Every few years we get one that’s an artistic triumph as well as a financial success. This year’s is Everything Everywhere All At Once, directed by the team simply known as “the Daniels.”
This is the Daniels’ second feature length film and the duo avoid the sophomore slump in a big way. In fact, they take what made Swiss Army Man (2016) good (humor and earnest emotional dialogue) and add action and visual wonderment, making EEAAO one of the year’s best films.
Lead actress Michelle Yeoh is known for her early roles as an action star. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) introduced Yeoh to American audiences on a grand scale before her Oscar-worthy performance in Memoirs of a Geisha (2005), a stand out role in Danny Boyle’s ensemble sci fi film Sunshine (2007) and as the scary mom in Crazy Rich Asians (2018). EEAAO represented her chance to command our attention for an entire film and she does it with what seems like effortless ease. Without an actress of this caliber this film could have been a parody of itself, due to the almost slapstick nature of the humor.
Yeoh is joined by Stephanie Hsu, who plays her character’s daughter. Hsu is known mostly for her Television roles but after this performance I would expect more feature films for the young actress, who holds her own when on screen with Yeoh who plays Evelyn Wang, her mother and the co-owner of a laundromat that serves as a central locale for the bizarre story. The father in the family is played by Ke Huy Quan, who you may remember as Short Round or Data from a pair of iconic 80’s films. Beyond this nostalgia, Quan does a fine job as the film’s emotional anchor against the chaos surrounding his wife and daughter throughout the film.
My hope is that you have not seen Everything Everywhere All at Once and are using this review to decide whether to stream it this holiday season ahead of the 2023 Oscars in March, so I will tread lightly as I describe why this film is so compelling and fun to watch. In short, it takes convoluted subject matter originated by US physicist Hugh Everett in the late 1950s and turns it into a practical, real-life example of how our lives can change at a moment’s notice. “Multiverse theory” envisions our universe as just one of numerous parallel worlds that branch off from each other, a device you may be familiar with from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
I expected this film to be an emotionally resonating story that involved guilt, regret and embarrassment. It was, but even more so it was a chance to glean additional knowledge about a strange concept that has captivated movie-going audiences in recent years, multiple universes, all the while laughing out loud at the hysterical gags and hijinks of a raunchy comedy.
Visually stunning, character driven and funny – what more do you want from a film? How about Jamie Lee Curtis in a great role that finally proves what Mark Twain said over a century ago, “the only difference between a tax man and a taxidermist is that the taxidermist leaves the skin.” And finally, I would be remiss if I also failed to mention that the great James Hong is a cast member. Not as much screen time as he had as David Lo Pan in Big Trouble in Little China (1986) but enough to appreciate that the actor still “has it” at 93 years young.
If the first Daniels’ feature Swiss Army Man is a B then this latest film is a A!