Few films grab an audience’s attention with a name as audacious as “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” and even fewer films live up to the billing of having such an ambitious and indulging title. In the case of Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan’s (adequately self-nicknamed Daniels) 2022 critical darling and independent success story, not only does “Everything Everywhere All at Once” live up to its own title, it surpasses every industry expectation and expands on what it means to be a film developed under a restrained budget.
Because “Everything Everywhere All at Once” doesn’t feel like a film developed by A24. It has the scale and size to match Marvel films and action-packed set pieces that rival some of Michael Bay’s finest works. Every bit of what its shortcomings should be are squeezed well beyond what was perceived as possible (there’s a freaking “2001” reference in here…. with hot dog fingers).
When this film came out earlier this year – just weeks before “Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” was set to kick off Marvel’s year of mediocre blockbuster fare, the stakes were set extraordinarily high. Entering the multiverse has become a cultural fingerprint for this generation of virtual realities and expanding online technology. When a film centers on exploring the many different branches of a multiverse, expectations grow that’ll explore the ordinary, as well as the extraordinary.
“Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” fails where “Everything Everywhere All at Once” succeeds. Instead of pulling back and restraining its own storytelling possibilities, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” blows the doors open for cultural references, mind-bending action pieces, and heart-shredding emotional beats. Everything that’s ever been in a movie, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” riffs on.
And yet, with all of those praises, I can see how it may wear on a section of viewers. It’s audacious, and it is going to be audacious to a fault for some. Daniels have referenced in multiple interviews their love for gaming culture and YouTube culture, and it shines through in “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” but for audience members who don’t share that same love for meme lords, their mileage may very on this material.
But there’s so much here to praise beyond its own screenplay and set design. Each performance is not only great, its monumental and will surely be recognized at this year’s Academy Awards. Michelle Yeoh is given the flexibility to shine in so many different facets – her own insecurities and abilities to nurture a family, a hundred hysterical action scenes, and brilliant volatility in emotional highs and lows.
Each of the supporting performances are equally riveting and dynamic. Ke Huy Quan as Waymond is the emotional crux of the film, and his scenes that imitate the emotional weight and style of Wong Kar-Wai’s electrifying work are some of the best this year, period. Stephaine Hsu, as Evelyn and Waymond’s daughter Joy (and also groundbreaking villain Jobu Tupaki) carries one of the tougher assignments in the film as she fluctuates between being the misunderstood daughter and the villain stand-in for nihilism. In a thematic way, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” touches on nihilism better than any fiction feature in recent memory.
‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’ Verdict
To put into words how exhilarating “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is isn’t easy to do. A film unlike any other, it pushes every filmmaking possibility to the brink in 2022. Many films come and go with the wind, but “Everything Everywhere All at Once” will be in our culture for years – even decades. The phrase “modern classic” doesn’t apply to films very frequently, but this is one of those instances where it feels justified.