REVIEW: “Everything Everywhere All at Once” (2022)

The enthusiasm for A24’s latest “Everything Everywhere All at Once” has been deafening, with early reactions ranging from high praise to full-blown hyperbole. Admittedly, that has made keeping my own personal expectations in check a little difficult. On one hand A24 is a distributor with a tremendous track record when it comes to releasing bold original independent movies. On the other hand, first-takes can be a hard thing to gauge, and they can sometimes resemble trendy groupthink rather than original reactions.

After some initial worry, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” has finally made its way to our market. And while I appreciate much of what it’s going for, the movie ended up being a tough sit. Without question, the film is an ambitious undertaking for the co-writing and co-directing duo of Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (who collectively refer to themselves as “Daniels”). Unfortunately their ambition often gives way to overindulgence making this overlong and overstuffed genre stew a well-meaning but exhausting experience.

The film’s biggest plus is easily Michelle Yeoh. She’s long been a terrific actress and here she fully commits 110%. She truly is the movie’s anchor and her role demands a ton emotionally, physically, and even comedically. It’s pretty amazing watching Yeoh tie all of those threads together especially considering how erratic the movie can get at times. Blunt stylistic choices and some particularly wild attempts at humor make things needlessly messy, yet Yeoh never misses a beat.

Image Courtesy of A24

Yeoh’s character Evelyn is the story’s centerpiece. When she was young, Evelyn ran off and married Waymond (Key Huy Quan) much to the chagrin of her disapproving parents. These days the couple own and run a neighborhood laundromat and live in small apartment right above it. The movie begins with Evelyn chugging through her hectic yet mundane existence. “Laundry and taxes” is her life in a nutshell as she and Waymond struggle to keep their laundromat afloat while preparing for an audit by the IRS.

Meanwhile Evelyn’s elderly father (James Hong) is set to pay a visit and her rebellious daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu) wants to introduce him to her girlfriend Becky (Tallie Medel). But knowing what her old-fashioned father’s reaction will be, Evelyn hides it, souring her relationship with her daughter even more. This forms one of the movie’s central themes – a mother reconnecting with her daughter after bucking her ‘old ways’ of thinking. It’s all pretty on-the-nose and it’s not hard to figure out how things are going to play out. The only real suspense is in how chaotic things will get in between.

The craziness kicks in when Evelyn is contacted by a Waymond from another universe. Call him Alpha Waymond and through a string of long never-ending exposition drops he explains to Evelyn (and us) the rules of this movie’s world. Over time Alpha Waymond rattles on about “infinite multiverses”, “bringing balance”, and even a line about Evelyn being “the One” (all obvious nods to “Star Wars”, “The Matrix”, and the MCU). I understand laying the groundwork, but to be honest I quickly grew tired of the details. And the more they went on about how it all worked the more my mind wandered.

Image Courtesy of A24

But that only scratches the surface. As it turns out, there are enough ideas and interests stuffed into this thing to fill at least three seasons of a television series. Yet it’s all crammed into this one movie which sees the Daniels frantically shoehorning in every possible idea that must have come to their collective minds. Operating under the notion that ‘more is not enough’, the filmmakers move from exposition-heavy to furiously bouncing across nearly every genre. That sounds cool, but too often the chaos overshadows the human element. In fact, at times the movie seems far more interested in its own boldness and peculiarity. That leaves it scrambling at the end to bring things back to an emotional level.

As Evelyn learns the technique of ‘verse-jumping’, she’s able to tap into the memories (and skills) of her parallel selves. This is where we’re introduced to a universe where everyone has hotdogs for fingers, a chef with a raccoon on his head, and there’s a verse-hopping bagel cult (yep, you read that right) ran by Alpha Joy, aka Jobu Tupaki. There’s actually meant to be a poignant mother/daughter element to the bagel cult. But as with so much in this movie, it’s overshadowed by the brazen showiness and all-out absurdity of nearly everything else.

What’s most frustrating about “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is that it has the pieces for something special. Tops on that list is the cast. Yeoh is sensational and it was great seeing Key Huy Quan handed a meaty role. We even get a bobbed Jamie Lee Curtis playing part IRS inspector/part bagel cult assassin (she’s terrific). And the story has good things to say about finding oneself, the messiness of life, and pondering the question of “What if?”. But whether it’s the draining exposition of the first half or the smothering non-stop ridiculousness of the second half, the film never finds a good balance. It ends up as something that could’ve possibly flourished as a streaming series rather than being the well-meaning but tiresome 140 minutes it becomes. “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is now showing in theaters.

VERDICT – 2 STARS

27 thoughts on “REVIEW: “Everything Everywhere All at Once” (2022)

  1. Well huh. This has been getting very favorable reviews, but now you don’t like it. I’ve been thinking of running out to see it, have to reevaluate now.

    Signed,
    Confused in Denver.

    • I’m definitely in the minority with this one. And I respect the opinions of those who enjoyed it. But I’m kind of surprised. It’s so into pushing its style and craziness that it ends up feeling overindulgent. They literally cram everything but the kitchen sink into this movie. I ended up checking my watch multiple times.

      • Saw it today and I have to agree. After a while it got to be too much motion and action to little effect. I talked to a couple more people who saw it, they came away with the same impression I did. Kind of wears you out.

      • It really, really does exhaust you. It’s almost as if they were to enamored with their wild and crazy style. They never seemed to know when enough was enough. As a result it really drowned out the characters and their stories.

  2. I have left this one behind a couple of hours ago and my head is still spinning. A little too much mustard on this hot dog for me, and that’s saying something considering how much I loved Swiss Army Man. Like you, I ended up checking the time multiple times throughout. Two and a half hours is a long sit for a movie that does so many things. I think that’s the issue.

  3. Sorry, but you are trying to be a contrarian… this move was self aware, and at the same time sincere and ridiculous. How many others pull that off? Sure, go with TopGun Mav and oiled up beach volleyball… but sometimes it is incredible to feel emotion for the absurd. That is art.

    • What would I gain by being a contrarian? I’ve always felt that’s the biggest waste of time. I’m genuinely glad you loved the movie. Personally, I don’t know if I could sit through it again. I found it to be overindulgent and it wore me down. But that’s me.

  4. As a dyed in the wool Blade Runner fan, get a brain. A candidate for best ever. Those who can do make our lives better with films like this. Those who can’t just pontificate. Thou doth protest irrelevantly.

  5. Oh man! I loved it! We’re living in a time of information overload– inundated with new stories and constantly reimagining ourselves online. I thought it really captured the chaos that seems ever-present in the world these days. It IS intentionally exhausting. Calling a movie title Everything Everywhere All At Once “overstuffed” is very funny to me!

    And they presented a beautiful alternative– choosing to be present in our one life, nurturing relationships with the people we love.

    • I’m really glad you enjoyed it and sincerely wish I was able to get past its issues to share that enthusiasm. But for me “overstuffed” describes it nicely. When so much is crammed in that it smothers out the more personal and emotional elements, then a movie is indeed “overstuffed”.

      I think the Daniels got too caught up in the wacky, attention-getting stuff. I know some of those scenes have their own thematic tissue meant to connect them to the central relationships, but it’s so over-the-top silly that I lost all connection. And that’s what held me back most. The themes are rich. The exploration of those themes is indulgent and messy.

      But thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. I’m truly interested in hearing from others on this particular film.

  6. Just wanted to read a 2 star review for the best sci-fi movie in decades. 5 % of the critic reviews for this movie on rotten tomatoes were negative. Seemed kind of high.

    • I just appreciate that you’re willing to read and consider other opinions. That isn’t always the case. I respect that.

      As for the movie, I can’t really speak for anyone else, but I couldn’t shake my issues with it. And I tried. I gave it a second watch before awards season voting yet found myself frustrated at the same things. I’m definitely in the minority though.

  7. Glad to know I’m not alone in my sentiment. A creative, original, ambitious, and admirable feat, still overall I found it overindulgent and exhausting as well as lacking in emotional complexity (I didn’t like how sappy the resolution was) – which I think ultimately was compromised by everything the writers were trying to cram in.

    • Exactly! You sum up my thoughts very well. They definitely cram too much in and it ends up undercutting the emotional they’re going for. I tried watching it a second time, but it only reinforced my feelings about it.

      • “Overstuffed” describes it to a T. I didn’t hate it, but my first reaction was ” 11 Oscar noms??” Weird doesn’t always equal great. Why must all movies nowadays be 2 hours plus? Can’t anyone tell a story succinctly anymore? Just when you think it’s over, more repetition. All right, rant over. Now I have to go yell at the kids to get off my lawn.

      • HA! I’m with you. But it certainly seems like we’re in the minority on this one. I’ll admit to being surprised that it isn’t a more divisive film, mainly because its problems are pretty glaring. Yet it seems poised to win Best Picture. Baffling.

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