Friday, July 29, 2022

Review: "Everything Everywhere All at Once" is Action Movie T&A - Tedious and Amazing

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 45 of 2022 (No. 1857) by Leroy Douresseaux

Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022)

Running time: 139 minutes
MPA – R for some violence, sexual material and language
WRITERS/DIRECTORS:  Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert
PRODUCERS:  Daniel Kwan, Mike Larocca , Anthony Russo, Joe Russo, Daniel Scheinert, and Jonathan Wang
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Larkin Seiple (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Paul Rogers


Starring:  Michelle Yeoh, Stephanie Hsu, Ke Huy Quan, James Hong, Tallie Medel, and Jamie Lee Curtis and Randy Newman (voice)

Everything Everywhere All at Once is a 2022 science fiction and comedy-drama film written and directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert.  The film focuses on an aging Chinese-American woman who discovers that she must save the universe by exploring all the other universes and connecting with the lives she could have, but never lived.

Everything Everywhere All at Once introduces Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh), a Chinese-American wife and mother.  Evelyn and her husband, Waymond (Ke Huy Quan), own a struggling laundromat.  Tensions are high because the laundromat is being audited by the IRS and because they are dealing with an intense, by-the-book, IRS inspector named Deirdre Beaubeirdre (Jamie Lee Curtis).  Waymond is trying to give Evelyn divorce papers, and her demanding and elderly father, Gong Gong (James Hong), has just recently arrived from Hong Kong.  Finally, Evelyn and Waymond's daughter, Joy (Stephanie Hsu), has been trying to get her mother to accept her girlfriend, Becky (Tallie Medel).

During the meeting with Inspector Deirdre Beaubeirdre, Waymond's personality suddenly changes.  According to this new “personality,” known as “Alpha Waymond” (Ke Huy Quan), he is a version of Waymond from another universe, and he has taken over her Waymond's body.  Alpha Waymond says that he is from “Alphaverse,” one of many parallel universes (the “multiverse”).  He explains that “verse jumping” technology allows people to access the skills, memories, and bodies of their parallel universe counterparts.  He says that Evelyn must learn “verse jumping” because only she can save the multiverse from the threat of “Jobu Tupaki.”  The problem is that the Evelyn of this universe has never been good at much of anything.

Writer-directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (collectively known as “Daniels”) are quite inventive and imaginative.  Everything Everywhere All at Once is filled with crazy ideas and crazier universes and the craziest characters.  Still, I find the mechanics of this film's concept of a multiverse and how one traverses it to be not that interesting.  Every time, Alpha Waymond started talking, I found myself bored and considered stopping the film.

Luckily, the Daniels created engaging and lovable characters for Everything Everywhere All at Once, and they are played by a very skilled cast.  First, I am always happy to see the legendary Chinese-American actor, James Hong, who plays “Gong Gong.” and in this film, he has an opportunity to show the breath of his abilities.  Secondly, I am a huge fan of Jamie Lee Curtis (A Fish Called Wanda), and she gives an electric performance as the tough-talking IRS inspector, Deirdre, but she also makes a poignant turn as the “hot dog wiener fingers” universe version of Deirdre.  Ke Huy Quan plays several versions of Waymond so well that you might believe he is the lead character.  Stephanie Hsu is crazy, sexy, cool, dangerous, and even world-weary in her multiple turns in this film.

But Michelle Yeoh (Memories of a Geisha, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor) is the goddess here.  Apparently, the lead role in this film was originally written for Jackie Chan, who would have been magnificent in such a role in his younger days.  Circumstances, however, allowed Michelle Yeoh to show that she has the acting chops and the physicality to take on the kind of roles that have been afforded Jackie Chan for decades.  Yes, she is a great actress, and though Hong Kong and Chinese audiences have seen her range, I doubt many American moviegoers know that she could be so good in such a physically and emotionally challenging role as Evelyn Wang.

The influence of the Wachowski's groundbreaking 1999 film, The Matrix, on Everything Everywhere All at Once is obvious.  Ironically, Yeoh was one of the actresses considered to play “Trinity,” the lead female role in The Matrix.

Everything Everywhere All at Once is a whole lotta sound and fury for a film that is ultimately about the conflicts that can define a mother-daughter relationship, as well as basic family dysfunction.  I also think that it could have done the same thing in a considerably shorter run time than two hours and 19 minutes.  Everything Everywhere All at Once is good, but not great, and any greatness that it does have, it has because of the all-time great, Michelle Yeoh.

6 of 10
★★★ out of 4 stars

Friday, July 29, 2022

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