Everything Everywhere All at Once (R)
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This came out in March 2022, and I actually saw it on DVD in August of that year, which is much sooner than I manage to see most movies. Before I watched this, I thought I'd put my review under "science fiction", because it's about alternate universes. But while watching it, I decided I'd absolutely have to file it under "weird", because it is so absurdist and surreal. For a little while, I toyed with the idea of putting a link to the review in every one of my categories, sort of as a play on the title and concept. It would actually make sense to put it in a surprising number of different categories, but not all of them. So ultimately, I decided against doing that. But I will link to it in three categories: "weird", "art", and "martial arts". I don't actually feel that much like calling it science fiction anymore, because the surrealism includes some scientifically impossible things. But I still feel kind of bad about leaving it out of all the categories it could fit in. Oh, and I wanted to mention that the dialogue frequently switches between English and Chinese (with English subtitles).
The movie is broken up into three parts: "Everything", "Everywhere", and "All at Once", though I didn't feel like that made much of a difference, so I won't be doing that in my review. I mean, I didn't really feel like there was a significant thematic change from part to part, it still felt to me like a steady progression of plot, albeit with some fake-out closing credits after the first part (which makes sense, in universe... at least in one universe). But I could be wrong, maybe the separation of parts does reflect some sort of shift in the narrative. I don't know.
Anyway, it starts with a Chinese-American immigrant named Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh) stressing out about various things, most notably preparing a bunch of records for an upcoming tax audit. This happens to be on the same day she's planning a party for Chinese New Year; while also running her family's laundromat; worrying about her elderly father, Gong Gong ("maternal grandfather", played by James Hong); being upset about her daughter, Joy, inviting her girlfriend, Becky, to the party (and just in general about Joy being a lesbian, and especially not wanting Gong Gong to find out); and I don't even know what to say about her relationship with her husband, Waymond (Ke Huy Quan, a former child actor best known for "The Temple of Doom" and The Goonies). Unbeknownst to Evelyn until some time later, Waymond has had divorce papers drawn up, but only as a catalyst to talk about the problems in their marriage. Mainly, Evelyn doesn't take him very seriously and hasn't got time to pay any attention to him at all.
Evelyn and Waymond take Gong Gong along to their meeting with the IRS auditor, Deirdre (Jamie Lee Curtis), and things don't go well. To further complicate matters, Waymond abruptly takes on a new personality, that of a Waymond from another universe, which he calls the Alphaverse. In that universe, Evelyn had invented a means of jumping between 'verses. Jumpers can inhabit the bodies of alternate versions of themselves, as well as borrowing skills from other alternate versions of themselves, though to do this they have to... do something weird. The weird act varies depending on what skill they want to acquire, I guess, and they have computer algorithms that calculate exactly what they have to do. (This weirdness sort of put me in mind of the infinite improbability drive from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, but it's not really the same at all. I shouldn't even have mentioned it.) Alpha Waymond tells Evelyn that the multiverse is in danger because of someone named Jobu Tupaki, a verse-jumper whose abilities were pushed too far until she went insane, or something, and grew incredibly powerful. She's been searching for one particular Evelyn, and has killed many of them already in other universes. Alpha Waymond believes this Evelyn is the one Jobu is looking for, and he wants her help in defeating Jobu before she can... do whatever she plans to do to the entire multiverse. I dunno, it's all really complicated, and Evelyn doesn't really understand what Waymond is talking about. But she does learn to tap into alternate universes and acquire alternate Evelyns' skills, including kung fu (so she becomes a badass). Unfortunately, it seems as if skills aren't acquired permanently, so Evelyn will keep having to re-access other universes, and instead of using the Alphaverse's algorithm, she just ends up doing totally random weird stuff and hoping for the best, I guess. Oh, and there's something you might consider a spoiler, but I don't, because I predicted it right away, and it didn't take long for the movie to reveal it: Jobu Tupaki is actually the Alphaverse's version of Joy. This, naturally, complicates matters for Evelyn, who doesn't want to hurt her own daughter.
Well, lots of stuff happens. Comedic stuff, dramatic stuff, absolutely bizarre stuff. We get brief glimpses into lots of universes, and longer looks at a few universes. I'd also say there are at least a couple of alternate realities that are very nearly identical to the one we started it, so that got confusing to me, and I'm not sure it made perfect sense, objectively. For example, there's one universe where Evelyn punched Deirdre, which seemed to me at the time to be the original universe, but later on I got the impression that that never happened in the main universe we're watching. I could be wrong, though. Anyway, I kept thinking throughout this movie that Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (which came out about two months after this) couldn't possibly be as mad as this movie. I look forward to finding out. But I pretty much always like a good multiverse movie, and this one is absolutely brilliant. Maybe not from a scientific standpoint, but that doesn't matter. The weirder, more chaotic and inventive a multiverse movie gets, the better, I say. Just as importantly, the main characters (and their alternative selves) are all very well done. And I need to mention that the video essay webseries Pop Culture Detective did an excellent episode (which came out in July 2022, but I watched it the same night as the movie, August 31) all about Waymond, and a positive version of masculinity that is represented by the character (in most universes, though not so much the Alphaverse Waymond, who also taps into a badass version of himself). I feel like I can't say enough about this movie, while at the same time I don't want to spoil too much. It's so hilarious, and has some great philosophical components, great family drama, and is just so mind-bending in so many ways. And I will never stop laughing about Raccacoonie.