EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE

★★★★★

_REVIEW.   it’s about _FILM.   words _KYLE PEDLEY.   dir _DANIEL KWAN, DANIEL SCHEINERT.   rating _15.   release 13th MAY.

May 21, 2022

images © A24.

It would be easy, by now, to autopilot an appraisal of Everything Everywhere All At Once as being ‘the film that Multiverse of Madness should have been’. ‘What Doctor Stranges wishes it was’. Or words to such effect.

In truth, pushing A24’s latest curio through the filter of Marvel is insultingly reductive. Even in its wildest or most bonkers moments (Alligator Loki, anyone?), it’s nigh-impossible to imagine even a Strange outing featuring anything as off-the-wall as a security guard being brutally bludgeoned to death by two uber-sized, blood-soaked dildos.

There is invention, silliness and absurdity in abundance adorned in practically every frame of the Daniels’ reality-warping romp. Even the film’s opening sequences, establishing Michelle Yeoh’s Evelyn, overwhelmed by the chaotic mundanity of life, taxes, people-pleasing and teenager-raising, bristle with a kinetic fury of incident, plot and character.

Her laundromat business is on the rocks, relationship with recently-out daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu, a revelation) is equally bumpy, and are those divorce papers for husband Waymond (Temple of Doom’s Ke Huy Quan in a triumphant returns to screens) bumping around frame?

Throw in a padded, hilariously bothered Jamie Lee Curtis as the IRS inspector ready to drop the hammer on the family’s business enterprise, and a borderline-senile father (the legendary James Hong) yet-to-be-impressed by his middle-aged daughter’s life choices, and you have the recipe for an immediately engaging indy drama.

Or so one would be forgiven for expecting (and in truth, we’re completely down for watching). But this is Daniels territory and, from the creatives that brought the inspired, batshit insanity of Swiss Army Man, there is real strange-ness that needs introducing, and a multi-verse of actual madness to explore.

 Marvelous Madness‘Everything Everywhere’ is the latest release by directing and writing duo Daniel Kwan & Daniel Scheinert – collectively known as ‘Daniels‘. The duo rose to prominence originally as music video directors, but made a name for themselves with 2016’s similarly quirky and offbeat ‘Swiss Army Man’ (pictured above, © A24)

To say Everything Everywhere plays with its dimension-hopping antics, as Evelyn is drawn in to a cross-existential crisis to fight an unstoppable evil, would again undersell the outrageous fun and at-times breathless genius that the Daniels’ have with the infinitesimal toolbox at their disposal. At a conceptual level, having Yeoh tap into the skills and experiences of a myriad different Evelyns allows for, amongst other things, jaw-dropping martial arts and fight choreography that play as a hyperactive blend of The Raid meets Drunken Master. Everything is not short of action, and it is directed, performed and generally executed to a calibre few Western releases can boast.

Widening the lens, the places we go creatively, emotionally and visually with Yeoh and friends is rarely anything less than breathtaking in its invention, and frequently hilarious to boot. The concept of ‘pathfinding’, a cheeky dig at modern day algorithmic logic, offers up endless giggles, whilst one particular sequence, which sees both a formerly friendly face weaponise their pet and a ‘you have to see it to believe it’ tussle with a pair of security guards, may be, beat for beat, the most uproarious, bonkers and brilliant fight sequence of the decade thus far.

 Marvelous Madness‘Everything Everywhere’ is the latest release by directing and writing duo Daniel Kwan & Daniel Scheinert – collectively known as ‘Daniels‘. The duo rose to prominence originally as music video directors, but made a name for themselves with 2016’s similarly quirky and offbeat ‘Swiss Army Man’ (pictured above, © A24)

Yet perhaps most amazingly, for all of its technical and visual audaciousness, it’s a film that says as much as it shows. Its emotional clout and resonance are reminiscent of some of Pixar’s finest outings – films such as Inside Out, where an interesting premise and concept are actually in service of a deeply human and intimate study. The Daniels deserve a lot of the credit here, as does Paul Rogers, whose remarkable editing both clarifies and enhances in equal measure.

“It’s a dream of a role, multi-faceted in every possible sense, and Yeoh traverses her own multiverse of madness like the absolute pro she is”

But it is Yeoh who steers and steadies this potentially unwieldy ship with absolute grace and aplomb. Unsurprisingly, she absolutely eats up the action and fight sequences, but it’s the trajectory she takes her world-weary, brow-beaten Evelyn on that rises up above even the googly-eyes and hot-dog fingers. It’s a dream of a role, multi-faceted in every possible sense, and Yeoh traverses her own multiverse of madness like the absolute pro she is. She may need to clear the shelf of buttplug-shaped awards to make room for some alternatives.

The supporting cast are equally wonderful, too. Hsu, as mentioned, is superlative, whilst Ke Huy Quan gets a similarly fractured, eclectic turn as kindly Waymond and his trans-dimensional alternates. The scenes between the core family unit – Hong’s ‘Gong Gong’ included – are the film’s beating heart, and you won’t find a weak link (or, by the denouement, likely a dry eye).

In supporting turns, Jamie Lee Curtis is great fun, and tremendously game, as she switches from despondent administrator to wounded and lovelorn, to – perhaps most entertaining of all – brutish, hulking pursuer not a million miles from her Halloween nemesis Michael Myers. Harry Shum Jr., Jenny Slate and Biff Wiff are amongst other bit parts that pop up throughout to sprinkle some extra madness on proceedings.

Everything Everywhere All At Once erupts with vision and vibrancy. It is the very essence of cinema, an experience almost impossible to imagine in any other medium or environment. It’s clearly made with a lot of love and reverence, too, managing to pack into its runtime nods and gags to the likes of Ratatouille, 2001: A Space Odyssey and even some Wong Kar-Wai and Buster Keaton, for good measure. It looks, plays and feels very much like a tentpole outing, in much the same vein as, say, The Matrix.

Jamie Lee Curtis recently got into a spot of online fan boiling when she claimed Everything Everywhere All At Once ‘out-marvels Marvel’. Landing at the same time as the latest juggernaut of the MCU colossus, it’s easy to see why she – and many others – seized upon the comparison. But really, to say this is a cinemagoing experience more marvellous than fairly formulaic superhero fare is to bat too narrow; here is a masterclass in cinema that is ‘All At Once ‘better than pretty much ‘Everything’ Hollywood has cooked up in recent memory.

Essential. Breathless invention and tireless creativity craft a raucous, mind-bending, silly-yet-soulful explosion of pure, unadulterated cinema.

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