Film review: ‘EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE’ by Nick Gardener from ‘Built For Speed’

Everything Everywhere All At Once

We recently bemoaned the dearth of original ideas in Hollywood with the roster of current and upcoming films stuffed with sequels, reboots and remakes. Whether or not the incredibly weird existential, sci fi comedy Everything Everywhere All At Once – the brainchild of writer/directors Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, collectively known as ‘the Daniels’ – is the antidote to that malaise will be a matter of heated debate among cinema goers as this psychedelic freak out of a movie is guaranteed to thrill some and irritate the bejeezus out of others.

At the centre of this bizarre story is Evelyn Wang (Michele Yeoh, in a funny and at times moving performance) a middle-aged woman who leads a dissatisfying life running a laundromat with her needy and slightly annoying husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan, our old buddy Shortround from Indiana Jones and Temple of Doom) and squabbling with her sullen, rebellious daughter, the ironically named Joy (Stephanie Hsu).  While enduring a tax audit by an officious public servant, Deidre (Jamie Lee Curtis), Evelyn experiences what seem to be hallucinations as her husband’s personality abruptly changes and he informs her that he’s from an alternate universe and she’s been called upon to battle an all-powerful menace named Jobu Tabaki who threatens to take over this and other worlds.  The film turns into a crazed kung fu acid trip as Evelyn battles Jobu’s various incarnations and minions across a vast collection of universes in which she’s a different version of herself: a film star, Crouching Tiger-style ass-kicking princess, opera singer, animated character and even a rock. In one world everyone has frankfurters for fingers and she’s in a same sex relationship with Deidre.  Be warned the film actually becomes even stranger with one fight scene making disturbing use of sex toys.

Does any of this frenzied weirdness mean anything?  Well….almost. The film uses the multiverse concept to at least touch on a few ideas including the difficulty of life choices, the fragmentation of society (with visual allusions to the Capital Hill riot) and fractured relationships, particularly between mothers and daughters.

While it’s undeniably inventive, this film often feels like it’s flailing madly in a search of something profound. Too often, though, an adolescent mentality takes hold and it simply opts for over-the-top craziness and quirky humour. In a couple of scenes characters display some genuine sensitivity but much of it feels emotionally flat despite the furious manic energy of its visuals.

Also, while it is often unlike anything we’ve seen before, it’s not quite as original as it might at first seem. It evokes a range of other films (and in some cases novels) with the dreamlike, reality-shifting of Slaughterhouse Five and Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind as well as a ‘chosen one’ alternate world scenario and annoyingly jerky, rigid kung fu battles that recall The Matrix.

Some will adore this film as a ground-breaking cinematic event but amid the admittedly stunning colour and movement, there are only flickering ideas and a feint heartbeat and many will simply feel pummelled and exhausted at the end of this film’s 132 minutes.

Nick’s rating:    1/2

Genre: Sci Fi/ Fantasy/ Drama/ Comedy.

Classification: MA15+

Director(s): Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert.

Release date: 14th Apr 2022.

Running time: 132 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast. http://subcultureentertainment.com/2014/02/the-good-the-bad-the-ugly-film-show

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