I’m in a daze with this one, enraptured with the idea that something so silly as a film with such aggressive butt plug humor can so wholly capture the hopeless nihilism and the redeeming love that is the human experience. Also, there’s a lot of Michelle Yeohs in this movie and that makes it a stunner.
You may flinch at the words “butt plug humor,” but Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (collectively known as “Daniels”) have long been known to use immature humor to soften their audience as they slide their Trojan Horse lessons on love and humanity into the brains of their audiences. Their latest, Everything Everywhere All at Once, is a showstopper of a film that shows off the extent of their talents while maximalizing everything the duo was playing around with in their first film – Swiss Army Man. It’s an exercise in excess, postulating that there is a world where a raccoon is aiding a hibachi chef in honing his skills (the wildest slow burn joke of the movie) alongside one where we all have hot dog fingers that orgasm ketchup and mustard. It’s also a film that deals with the way we interact as human beings across generations, desperate to help us accomplish something so deceptively simple as kindness.
Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh) is dealing with a lot. Her failing coin-op laundromat business is a thorn in her side, her husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan) is asking for a divorce, her father Gong Gong (James Hong) is still disappointed in every one of her life choices, and her lesbian daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu) is suffering from a semi-truck full of anxiety as she tries to reconcile the warring love and hatred inside. As if all of that weren’t enough they’re being audited by the IRS, courtesy of award-winning auditor Dierdre (Jamie Lee Curtis). Add in the fact that Evelyn is apparently the savior of the multiverse? Perhaps BECAUSE her life is a series of failures? And she has to save it from an evil being named Jobu Tupaki that looks an awful lot like her daughter in the greatest costumes this side of Lady Gaga? You can see why she’s so irritable.
It’s difficult to describe a film like this without ruining it, but I have to try just for the sheer challenge of it all. Few films contain someone snorting a fly to access another set of skills ported from a different existential plane alongside one of the most intense conversations I’ve seen onscreen in a universe that never developed the proper conditions for life to evolve (the conversation is between two rocks, one of which attains googly eyes). It’s a film where Ke Huy Quan delivers a beautiful diatribe on the importance of being kind, particularly when no one knows what’s going on. A nunchuck fight involving a fanny-pack and a dog on a leash being swung around like hurricanes doesn’t seem out of place alongside sincerity when the Daniels are involved.
Michelle Yeoh gets plenty of fun for herself, blissfully reminding us that she is capable of a martial arts performance that will stand up to any of her peers with a vengeance. Mixing the skills of a hibachi chef, pinkies trained to hit harder than a bullet, and enough fight scenes to remind us all that she was the secret sauce in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (one of the best films ever made). Her fight scenes are matched by Ke Huy Quan’s and…well, pretty much every tertiary character in the film. The choreography is a mixture of several styles of fighting and skills, each with their own unique flavor, and they all jumble together nicely. Imagine if Daniels had several plates spinning, but each was also connected by little tubes and the food on the spinning plates just passed from spot to spot as everything spun in perfect harmony. You aren’t mad when you get meatballs or parmesaan in your spaghetti because it’s supposed to wind up that way.
This isn’t going to be for everyone, particularly once they realize the danger in the film is an everything bagel with literally everything on it (hopes, dreams, disappointments, poppy seeds, salt), but it’s the first truly stunning film of the year. In a sea of films that all feel the same (I’m very burnt out on Marvel movies) the level of creativity here feels like a breath of fresh air. Everything Everywhere All at Once really is just that – the sensation of existence boiled down to a film smuggling beauty in toilet humor.
And it’s currently playing in theatres. See it in IMAX if you can.