Everything Everywhere All at Once
Run Time: 2 hours 19 minutes
Stars: Michelle Yeoh, Stephanie Hsu, Jamie Lee Curtis
Writer/Directors: Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert
These days, it seems, Everything Everywhere All at Once is everywhere — and all at once. The sci-fi juggernaut about a laundromat owner who learns she has countless other selves existing in an infinite number of parallel universes has racked up a Titanic-class boatload of awards and is on track to be an Oscars night behemoth.
I kind of hate it.
Smugly proud of its in-your-face cleverness; poundingly frenetic in its storytelling; the film keeps applying defibrillator paddles to its exhausted narrative when, in reality, it has no heart to begin with.
I know it’s kind of late to be weighing in on the movie that, in a few days, may well sweep the Oscars (It’s got 11 nominations, including Best Picture). Everything Everywhere All at Once premiered way back in April 2022 — and as such is an Oscars rarity: A movie that opened early in the year yet kept its bandwagon rolling all the way into the Awards Season.
That week, I chose to review Aline — a spectacularly quirky Canadian musical/biography of Celine Dion — simply because I liked it better, and I’ve always felt the valuable real estate of this column is best-used pointing readers to movies they will actually enjoy.
I stand by that editorial choice: I’m not sure I’d want to sit through Aline a second time, but I do know I’m sorry I’ll never get back the 2 hours and 19 minutes I spent enduring Everything Everywhere All at Once.
For one thing, can we all agree the Parallel Universe Genre is played out? Frank Capra got away with it in It’s a Wonderful Life, it was cute in Sliding Doors, but then The Butterfly Effect started taking it seriously, and before long TV’s Rick and Morty was making it a weekly thing. Enough already. Like time travel, parallel universes have become the refuge of uninspired screenwriters.
The parlor trick of parallel universe movies is to make all the loose ends meet up for the finale. That can be readily accomplished, I can tell you as a writer, by constructing the whole thing backwards — knowing where you are going to end up and then sending your various threads of reality hurtling off into disparate beginnings.
That’s the easy part. Once you’ve created all those incarnations of a character, the challenge is in making your audience actually care about them. And this is where Everything Everywhere All at Once comes up short. Michelle Yeoh is remarkable as Evelyn Wang — and all her variations — but once the film establishes that there are infinite versions of Evelyn, it’s tough to become attached to any of them. After all, one Evelyn is just as good as any other; just different.
As an IRS auditor who is also a monster from another dimension, Jamie Lee Curtis gives the film’s most gratifying performance, skillfully revealing the soft side of an initially caustic character — offering the charming possibility that there may be infinite versions of each of us right there in our present universe. Curtis may well deserve a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Everything Everywhere. But as Viola Davis proved in Suicide Squad, it’s possible to be a truffle in a bowl of stone soup.
Meanwhile, as its constantly confused and frenzied figures rocket between realities, bark angry orders at each other, and hurtle through elaborately staged martial arts scenes, one gets a sense that the preoccupied filmmakers are only occasionally taking a breath to look out at their audience and say, “Oh — are you still here?”
Everything Everywhere All at Once is that insufferable child whose haughty parents trot her out in her tap shoes, then watch your face to make sure you register adequate amazement at her Buffalo turns and Bombershays. You can’t help but appreciate the kid’s skill and preparation — but gawd, how you wish it were over.
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