The world outside of east Asia and Chinatowns everywhere is finally noticing what a treasure actress Michelle Yeoh is. The star of such iconic films as CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON and TOMORROW NEVER DIES has seen her career reach new heights in recent years with stellar performances in CRAZY RICH ASIANS, SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS and TV’s STAR TREK: DISCOVERY. She’s now back with EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE and this one may just be her best performance yet.
Strap yourself in for what might be the craziest ride you’re going take in 2022. EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE tells the wacky story of Evelyn Wang (Yeoh), a middle-aged Chinese immigrant in the US, who runs a struggling laundromat along with her husband, Waymond (Ke Huy Quan, INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM). That’s not a typo. His name really is Waymond. A lot is happening in Evelyn’s life at the moment. Their business is being audited by the IRS, Evelyn’s father (the always wonderful, 93-year-old James Hong, BLADE RUNNER) has just arrived from China and a party at the laundromat is planned. Adding to the pressure, Evelyn and Waymond’s daughter, Joy (Stephanie Hsu, TV’s THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAIZEL), would like Evelyn to acknowledge that she’s gay and is in a committed relationship. Evelyn’s life takes an unexpected turn at their meeting with IRS inspector Deirdre Beaubeirdre (Jamie Lee Curtis, the HALLOWEEN franchise, KNIVES OUT) when Waymond suddenly reveals to her that he’s from another universe and he was sent to this universe to tell Evelyn that only she can save all the universes from total annihilation at the hands of someone named Jobu Tupaki. Is Evelyn having a nervous breakdown? Maybe she is… or maybe she’s not. Maybe Waymond is right and there really is a multiverse outside of MARVEL movies and science-fiction novels. In any case, Evelyn is immediately thrown in the deep end and she must summon all the skills and abilities all the other Evelyns have learned if she’s going to get out of this conundrum intact.
What a wonderfully inventive movie this is! Yeoh’s immense talent shines like a supenova here as we see Evelyn in all her different iterations. Quite amusingly, many of them are already familiar to movie audiences as writer-directors Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (SWISS ARMY MAN), known collectively as the Daniels, wholeheartedly embrace Yeoh’s acting resume. Quite interestingly, Yeoh wasn’t the Daniels’ first choice for this film. They had originally written it with legendary martial arts star Jackie Chan in mind but when he turned it down, they offered it to Yeoh and rewrote the story around her. Yeoh is quoted as telling Chan, “Your loss, my bro!” Indeed, as Yeoh may even cop an Oscar nomination for her performance here.
While Yeoh is the center of the film, the supporting cast is equally fabulous. Curtis, too, leans into her role as the burnt out, middle aged civil servant complete with an hilariously awful haircut, pot belly and protective wrist brace. Quan, whose Waymond provides the jet fuel for the story’s craziness, first appeared on screen 38 years ago as Short Round in the second INDIANA JONES film. He hasn’t been in front of the camera much as an adult but he’s sure to see his acting career revived after this performance.
As brilliant as I think this film is, it’s not for everyone and some audiences may find the multiverse concept better left to fans of Spider-man and Dr. Strange. My advice to anyone who thinks they may fall into that group is to do what Evelyn does — let go and accept the possibility that different versions of yourself might just exist. At the end of the day, EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE is really just a story about acceptance.
(Just a little side note: The grandfather is speaking Cantonese while Evelyn, Waymond and Joy are all speaking Mandarin. I can’t imagine that Hong can’t speak Mandarin, though he certainly would be able to speak Cantonese having spent his early years here in Hong Kong.)
EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE is playing now in Hong Kong and elsewhere. It’s one of my favourite films so far this year.
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