I really enjoyed Everything Everywhere All at Once, and A24, the film’s distributor, clearly has confidence in it because they’ve been screening the movie early and often. In fact, I saw it over two weeks ago. But here’s the thing. I’ve spent these last two weeks plus procrastinating, pushing off writing the review over and over again.
The reason might be simple. I feel obligated to include a plot description in my reviews even though I loathe writing them, but Everywhere’s plot is so wild, I don’t know where to start in describing it. This is not just a kitchen sink movie. It’s a kitchen sink, your bathroom sink, plus your neighbor’s kitchen and bathroom sink movie.
Though, the movie’s title probably gives that away already.
Let’s start here. Everywhere stars Michelle Yeoh. I love the legendary actor, especially as an action nerd who’s been watching her Hong Kong movies for decades. What stands out though, is what a good actor she is. She made her name with crazy stunt and martial arts movies where her rubber agility allowed her to bend and elongate into weird pretzel shapes to kick people’s asses. But over the years, she has blossomed into this regal, elegant screen presence who can legit act.
There’s something else, though. I don’t know how to describe it exactly…It’s this quality that, how do you say… it’s right on the tip of my tongue… Oh, yeah, 10 minutes into the movie my friend turned to me and said, “She’s really hot, right?” Without thinking I answered probably a little too loudly, “ Yeah she is!”
“Shhhh” said the packed theater. Actually, they said, “You’re right! But still, Shhhhh!”
What I’m saying is, Michelle Yeoh is downright beautiful.
I’m sorry I’m going on far too much about her looks. I promise, right here and now, the next Brad Pitt movie I review will have a paragraph devoted just to his beauty also.
Here Yeoh plays against type. Actually, she plays so many disparate versions of her character that she very much plays with and against type.
The story’s focus is Evelyn Wang, a Chinese immigrant married to a goofy lush of a husband, Waymond (a marvelous Ke Huy Quan…who I later found out played “Short Round” in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom back in 1984!). Together they own a failing laundromat and are proud parents to their daughter, Joy (Stephanie Hsu). Though Evelyn isn’t proud enough to tell Joy’s aging and old-fashioned grandfather (legendary character actor James Hong), who has come from China to live with them in the US and doesn’t speak a word of English, that her daughter is gay and in a happy relationship with another woman.
Between the stress of a tax audit that may lose them their business, the tension between Evelyn and Joy over keeping her in the closet, and the anxiety over her disapproving father moving in with them, the movie starts off and stays a full-on drama for the first twenty minutes or so with only a few clever hints dropped here and there to suggest the crazy that is coming. Wait, did Waymond suddenly become super agile on the security cam footage running on a monitor behind Evelyn?
When Evelyn and Waymond, along with Gong Gong (the grandfather) because there’s nobody at home to take care of him, head to the I.R.S for the dreaded audit, things start to get weird and just keep building and building in hilarious and exhilarating ways, like layers on an overstuffed bagel with everything already on it, all the way up to the end credits.
I won’t give them away here because, honestly, I can’t even if I wanted to. None of it will make sense unless you see the movie. A good chunk of the fun is also the discovery of where the movie’s going and why.
And I’m not sure if it all makes sense in the end. Like, are the rules of this (multi)verse actually consistent? So much happens so fast, it’s hard to keep up. Spoiler! By the time Evelyn has a huge martial arts brawl with a security guard whom she’s trying to prevent from shoving a trophy (that looks suspiciously like a buttplug) up his rectum to unlock his superpowers (I told you it’s weird), you stop trying to figure out if it makes sense and just go along with the fun.
And fun it is. But it’s also a little long. And so much keeps piling on that the Jenga tower the movie has become almost tips over as it cruises to but then pumps the breaks on the end of its two hour and twenty-minute runtime.
Making the lengthy finale more bearable was the effusive praise from the giddy lady behind me who loved every weird moment of the movie. Her joy was infectious and reminded me why a theatrical experience can be better than watching everything at home.
But then I noticed the dude in the front row who had his phone out the whole time, the guy on the other end who laughed just a little too loud and long to be genuine, how balmy the theater was once again (question to my Miami audience: does Sunset Place save money by not air conditioning their theaters properly?), and how I was the only idiot in the theater wearing a mask that sweatily stuck to me and humidified the lower half of my already warm face for the entire two-plus hours, and I was reminded again that this whole argument for the superiority of the theatrical experience is complete BS.
And maybe that’s why the ending seemed so long to me. I was simply uncomfortable and annoyed with where I was. And honestly, with everything the movie throws at you, cutting it short at the end would have been disappointing also. I’ll save my final judgment for when I watch the movie again at home. But for now, I will say this: Everything Everywhere All at Once is a wild movie that goes way out there but never forgets to stay grounded with its characters, emotions, and pathos. Justified complaints about the length of the finale or not, it still is very much worthy of your time.