Review: ‘Everything Everywhere’ is the movie all your friends will be talking about

From left to right: Stephanie Hsu, Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan in “Everything, Everywhere, Everything At Once”. MANDATORY CREDIT: Allyson Riggs/A24

Photo: Allyson Riggs/A24

With most movies, even the most imaginative ones, there comes a point where everything starts to twitch. For an hour or more, a film will wow audiences with unexpected imaginative flights and twists, and then, as if alarm bells have gone off, the filmmakers retire. They have to land the plane.

The big distinction of “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” which debuts April 8, is that it never backs down. On the contrary, it is constantly developing and offering new ideas. Eventually, the filmmakers land the plane, but they don’t do so by including long explanations or giving a tidy moral to the story. The film ends well, and reasonably, but not in a way you could ever see coming.

Without a doubt, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is a remarkable work, one of the most original and creative films of the last two years. It’s so much of its own thing that it’s hard to imagine how it was put together – how it was conceived, written, filmed and edited. Directors Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (known collectively as the Daniels) had nothing to fall back on, no genre convention, no set pattern. They invented this one on their own.

If the film has one weakness, it’s that it’s not as enjoyable as it is brilliant. A film like this is a complete meal, and after two hours and 12 minutes viewers can start to feel as stuffed as a goose on a French farm. “Everything Everywhere All at Once” never slows down or wastes the audience’s time, and yet it’s safe to say that no one will walk out of the theater wishing it was 10 more minutes.

More information

“Everything, everywhere, at once”

To classify: For violence, sexual material, language

Operating time: 139 minutes

Or: Opens April 8 throughout Houston

4 out of 5 stars

It stars Michelle Yeoh as Evelyn, a harassed middle-aged woman who tries to run a struggling laundry business. Her tax returns are checked and she feels like she’s not getting enough help from her sweet husband (Ke Huy Quan). She tends to vent her frustrations on her lesbian daughter, Joy (Stephanie Hsu), whom she constantly criticizes for everything, including her weight.

In the first few minutes, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” could be a Chinese movie. It’s almost entirely subtitled, and it has the frenetic pace of a Chinese comedy. Over time, he never quite loses that feeling, but it does expand. In the elevator, heading for the IRS office, Evelyn is informed by a messenger from another universe that she is the only person with the power to save all of the millions of universes from chaos and destruction. .

This notion of the multiverse is gaining ground in recent movies, but “Everything Everywhere All at Once” does it more and better – much better than the Marvel movies. The idea here is that the various Evelyns collectively have all the talents and abilities this Evelyn needs to have to fight a war on her own. She just needs to become more adept at making a mental connection with each Evelyn as needed.

This setup gives the filmmakers the license to go anywhere and do anything, so the film is constantly switching between worlds and Evelyn personae – including one in which she is a movie star much like the real Michelle Yeoh, whose credits span from rom-coms like “Crazy Rich Asians” to action flicks like Marvel’s “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”. It’s as wild visually as a Ken Russell movie, but like a Ken Russell movie in seven dimensions.

Yet for all the freedom Kwan and Scheinert allow each other, they remain wisely focused – sometimes firmly, sometimes casually – on the specific emotional dynamics of Evelyn’s family, her relationship with her husband and daughter. It’s the barely visible thread that gently holds the film within its limits.

Yeoh is superb, totally ready for action while understanding every nuance of the multiple Evelyns, in all their pettiness and potential greatness. (She has a long fight with Jamie Lee Curtis, as an IRS agent from another universe, that deserves to be anthologized.) Quan (“The Goonies”, “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” ) is beautiful and multi-dimensional as the husband and Hsu (“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”) shows considerable range in demonstrating the different incarnations of the girl.

Kwan and Scheinert’s last film to be released, “Swiss Army Man”, was one of the worst films of 2016 – so bad that I never expected to hear them again. But their new movie either shows that you never know what people are capable of. Where that it really is possible to access abilities from other universes. Anyway, with “Everything Everywhere All at Once”, they made an extraordinary film.

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