I’ve been a fan of Michelle Yeoh’s work for years, and this is a film that really lets her showcase every aspect of her skill as an actor. If she doesn’t get a Best Leading Actress nomination at the Academy Awards for this role, she will have been robbed.
Alex rhapsodized about this film when it came out, and Blaine put it at the top of his “to watch” list. But we’ve never reviewed the multi-award-winning, groundbreaking megahit, so here’s a belated look at the film that ruled the 2023 Academy Awards.
Most of the “groundbreaking” comments reference the success of an American film– the most awarded movie of all time, if you include its non-Oscars– which features a predominantly Asian main cast. Those same commentators often overlook how rare it is for (1) a comedy and (2) an SFF film to win best picture. Okay, sure, the publicity people don’t call it Science Fiction or Fantasy. Most critics have defaulted to “absurdist.” That’s a perfectly cromulent designation in this case, but it carries a whiff of snobbery, as it has become the default term for works that could legitimately be categorized as Science Fiction and/or Fantasy, but which have literary and mainstream (although a lot of “mainstream” in 2023 is SFF) and artistic aspirations beyond, I guess, what some people think SFF should have. Or, perhaps, they still think “SF” and “Fantasy” mean, exclusively, rocket ships and elves. Perhaps A. O. Scott of The New York Times described it best when he called the film a “swirl of genre anarchy” (April 18, 2022).
Cast and Crew
Written and directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert
Michelle Yeoh as Evelyn Wang
Stephanie Hsu as Joy Wang
Ke Huy Quan as Waymond Wang
Jamie Lee Curtis as Deirdre Beaubeirdre
James Hong as Gong Gong
Tallie Medel as Becky Sregor
Jenny Slate as Debbie the Dog Mom
Harry Shum Jr. as Chad
Biff Wiff as Rick
Sunita Mani as TV Musical Queen
Aaron Lazar as TV Musical Soldier
Li Jing as Kung Fu Master
Dylan Henry Lau as Young Waymond
Peter Boon Koh as Maternity Doctor
Timothy Eulich as Laundromat Police
Daniel Scheinert as District Manager
Michiko Nishiwaki as Martial Arts Actor
Jason Hamer, Timothy Ralston, Hiroshi Yada as Puppeteers
A struggling family try to save their business and their marriage while preparing a Chinese New Year party which the somewhat-estranged grandfather will be attending. Their already difficult life becomes infinitely more complicated when multiple universes start collapsing.
I love the entertaining manner in which the film embraces its premise and gradually reveals enough that everyone should be able to figure out what’s going on– or just accept events on their own terms when we cannot.
The “Everywhere” section needed to be at least five minutes shorter.
Originality: 4/6 If you’re reading anything at this site, you likely have years of experience with the multiverse. Everything Everywhere All at Once imparts its own take on the concept, but it cannot be called wholly original. Think of this as Crisis on Infinite Earths, if it focused on a struggling immigrant family rather than superheroes, and the Anti-Monitor is…. Well, that would be telling.
The writer/directors have expressed their concern that, as they worked on this film, multiple films and shows involving the multiverse seemed to get dropped all around them.
Effects: 5/6 The visual effects overall are spectacular. We have a story that really needed to be told as a motion picture. The 2001 parody (at this point, 2001 parodies have become visual shorthand in movies), however, looks cheaper than it needed to be.
Acting: 6/6 Yeoh gives what could be a career-defining performance, and yet one so complex that she could hardly be type-cast for it. Everyone in this film does an exceptional job, a fact made more remarkable by the bizarre demands made upon the cast.
Emotional Response: 6/6 This is a fun trip to a satisfying, if hardly groundbreaking, conclusion. In an absurd world we cannot possibly comprehend, treating people nicely seems the only meaningful thing we can do.
Production: 6/6 I have not liked nor seen everything A24 has produced and/or distributed, but I have never seen anything of theirs that did not have top-notch production. Even what I’ve seen of the hit teen show Euphoria looks visually compelling.
Overall: 6/6 For all of the commentary on representation, the film strikes me as universal. Sure, Joy Wang had to be queer, and yes, the Wang family display a number of Chinese cultural characteristics. However, one could imagine, in an alternate universe, a version of this family who were first-generation Nigerian or Korean or Italian or Whatever immigrants. They would display some specific elements of their culture, but the underlying story would be similar. In the end, this is just a really good, utterly bizarre film about a family having a really bad time and learning to overcome hilariously daunting obstacles.
In total, Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022) receive 38/42