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‘Everything, Everywhere, All At Once’ lives up to its name

Michelle Yeah stars as Evelyn Wang in "Everything, Everywhere, All At Once," grappling with the IRS and the multiverse.
Michelle Yeah stars as Evelyn Wang in "Everything, Everywhere, All At Once," grappling with the IRS and the multiverse.

In the decade since distribution company A24 started releasing films, it has become the dominant force at the specialty box office.

A24 movies don’t make much money, but they rake in critical acclaim like no other. Sure, the Academy has a streak of snubbing most of the distributor’s projects … But still, the Rotten Tomatoes scores and online chatter speak for themselves.

I thought A24 peaked in 2019 with “Midsommar” and “Booksmart,” two films with perpetual places in my top five movies of all time.

I was wrong.

“Everything, Everywhere, All At Once” may just be A24’s magnum opus.

Part sci-fi, part family drama, part comedy, the latest A24 project defies genre. The movie follows Evelyn and Waymond Wang (played by Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan) Chinese immigrants to the U.S. who own a struggling laundromat.

A myriad of conflicts arise as Evelyn’s father Gong Gong visits America for the first time, the laundromat business gets audited, the couple’s daughter Joy, portrayed by Stephanie Hsu, wants to introduce her girlfriend Becky to Gong Gong, and Waymond files for divorce.

As the family heads to the IRS office to go through the audit with Deirdre, played by Jamie Lee Curtis, Evelyn is suddenly introduced to the multiverse.

It’s impossible to talk about the rest of the movie without spoilers. I’m sure I’ll love watching it a second, third and hundredth time, but nothing compares to the experience of going in blind.

The film’s concept — weird, maximalist, absurd and surprisingly heartfelt — is a home run. Directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert expertly balance laughs, tears and genuinely jaw-dropping moments in a way that shouldn’t work and yet led to one of the most enjoyable movies I’ve ever seen.

Yeoh delivers an Oscar-worthy performance as she struggles to make sense of how her choices in life have led her to each moment. From a strained relationship with her daughter to literally learning about the multiverse, Evelyn has plenty on her mind to make her break down, and Yeoh portrays all the emotions perfectly.

For her part, Hsu steals the show as Joy. She struggles to deal with her parents’ begrudging acceptance of her queer relationship while coping with depression and the “nothing matters” mindset that comes with being a young adult. Joy is a dense emotional character yet still manages to get the most laughs of any main character, except maybe Jamie Lee Curtis.

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Beyond the acting, “Everything, Everywhere” excels on a technical level. I was in love with the cinematography before the multiverse even got introduced, and it only got better from there. I admit I’m heavily biased in favor of any movie that introduces characters in mirrors, but that doesn’t mean I’m wrong,

With a $25 million budget, I’d accept some wonky effects from this movie. And to be fair, the effects aren’t stellar in one universe specifically (no spoilers though). But for the vast majority of the film, “Everything, Everywhere” could go toe-to-toe with Marvel.

Part of the reason the movie’s effects work so well is because of its tight focus. The action here doesn’t need giant set pieces and CGI monsters to work, and the plot is better for it.

I’m down for large-scale blockbusters any time, but A24 doesn’t need to do that to tell a good story. All it needs is a giant cosmic bagel.

And while I promised no spoilers, I have to mention the props. Every object in this movie carries significance, including but not limited to: googly eyes, rocks, a racoon puppet, a Jeremy Scott jacket straight from @tinyjewishgirl’s TikTok and, uh, buttplugs.

In a movie where randomness is an intentional plot rule, nothing is unaffected. Actions, costumes, sets and props are all defined by unexpectedness, and it leads to one of the most unique and engaging films I’ve ever seen.

It’s too soon to tell if “Everything, Everywhere, All At Once” will shake up my all-time favorite movies list. The only way to get there is after at least five or six rewatches.

But I am confident this movie is in the top 10 best quality movies I’ve ever seen, and I can’t wait to see what A24 does next.

What’s that? Its next project is about a little talking shell who wears shoes and needs to find his family? I’m in.

Rating: 10/10

scottsr2@miamioh.edu

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