Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh) is just trying to do her taxes. Swamped in handwritten receipts for her small business–a struggling laundromat that she runs with her husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan)–Evelyn finds herself once again across the desk from Deirdre, a stern IRS tax auditor (Jamie Lee Curtis). She can’t help it if her mind wanders… from dealing with her daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu), who wants to finally introduce her girlfriend to ailing grandfather Gong Gong (James Hong), to planning what is perhaps a last-gasp party for her customers.
So it comes to her great surprise when her universe suddenly, literally melts. Waymond whips off his nerdy glasses, proclaiming to be from a parallel universe, and she is in great danger! In this suddenly menacing office building, she will need to use her fighting skills to save them all in a matter of moments. Now, wait, what? What fighting skills? Evelyn is just a frumpy middle-aged laundromat owner…
Now imagine someone told you that there was a multiverse, where every variation of your life is represented. Remember that time you thought you could be in the movies? Or be a martial arts expert? Or be a master chef? Well, each of your dreams is fully realized in these alternate universes. Evelyn is told that with her sad marriage, her failing business, and her strained relationship with her daughter, she is the most failed version of her potential self (OUCH). This means that she also has the most capacity to borrow from her other selves in order to help fight this mysterious being that wants to destroy the multiverse once and for all. Well, um, alright?
There is really no way to explain Everything Everywhere All at Once, except to say that the title of the movie is completely accurate. As Evelyn hops the multiverse, you get to see the great Michelle Yeoh in all of her possible potential: the gorgeous movie star and martial arts badass are ones we already know, but give these filmmakers credit for letting her do ALL the things. She gets to be frumpy, she gets to be nurturing, she gets to be romantic (hot dog hands! you just have to see it), and, perhaps best of all, she gets to be FUNNY. This is probably the best role for any actor ever… it must have been a complete blast.
If you want action, you’ve got it. If you want weirdo-sci-fi/fantasy, that’s here. If you want a surprisingly touching portrayal of a mother/daughter relationship (extra points for the immigrant parent/American kid variation), there is that, too. Heck, if you want butt plugs and dildos wielded as weapons, why, you can check that off your list, too. The pace of the film is exhilarating and exhausting and absolutely non-stop. And honestly? It made me laugh harder than anything I’ve seen in a long time (OMG, Jamie Lee Curtis… you killed it!).
In its weird “everything but the kitchen sink” way, this movie is a celebration of the movies. It’s also a celebration of the massive talents of Michelle Yeoh, a true queen of cinema. Co-directors/screenwriters “The Daniels” (aka Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert) are the most uniquely fun and weird filmmakers to come along since Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman. But best of all, this is a movie that I think we all really need right now: After two years of pandemic Netflix-streaming isolation, Everything Everywhere All at Once brings the joy back into going to the movies in a huge way.