‘Everything everywhere:’ Comedy, action, sci-fi all at once

Michelle Yeoh as Evelyn Wang:  The laundromat owner who jumps to different times and realities. ‘Everything Everywhere’ Photos

By Wendell Gaa

“Everything Everywhere All At Once” is the most original and clever film I have seen for this year yet, and another “Asian-centric” piece to be proud of. 

As much as I loved and enjoyed this season’s other exciting blockbuster “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” (and Marvel’s darkest movie yet), “Everything Everywhere” brings on a new smart twist to the whole “multiverse” concept.

A unique film which remarkably combines elements of martial arts action, comedy and science-fiction, its story revolves around a Chinese-American woman named Evelyn Wang, a family woman who owns and operates a laundromat business together with her husband Waymond.  Life is not quite as ideal as Evelyn wishes it to be as her business is financially struggling and is in the process of being audited by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). As if things couldn’t get any worse, Waymond wishes to file for divorce from Evelyn, and her overbearing father Gong Gong (longtime Hollywood veteran actor James Hong) has just arrived from China.  Further yet, her rebellious daughter Joy who has come out as a lesbian is attempting to get her mother to accept her girlfriend Becky, whom Evelyn views with disdain.   

One day when Evelyn and Waymond meet up with IRS inspector Deirdre Beaubeirdra (played by Hollywood veteran Jamie Lee Curtis), Waymond’s personality suddenly transforms when his body is taken over by Alpha Waymond, a version of Waymond from another universe called the “Alphaverse.”  Waymond reveals to Evelyn that many parallel universes exist since every choice made by any individual creates a totally new and different universe of existence.  He further describes how the people existing in the “Alphaverse” have developed a new “multiverse-jumping” technology which allows people to have access to the bodies, skills, thoughts, memories of their “parallel universe” counterparts by accomplishing particular conditions.  Alpha Waymond then explains to Evelyn that the multiverse is being threatened by a mysterious power and being, and that her help is needed in order to save the very survival and existence of everyone in the multiverse.   

Jamie Lee Curtis almost unrecognizable as the IRS inspector.
The Wang family. From left, young actress Stephanie Hsu as the daughter Joy, Vietnamese-born actor Ke Huy Quan as the husband Waymond, and Hollywood veteran actor James Hong as the overbearing father Gong Gong.

Watching the entire film is a wonderful treat, but the plotting here is not always easy to follow, as figuring out which particular “universe” is real and what may not be can seem literally dizzying and confusing, at least on the surface.  However, if one were to pay real close attention, then the pieces to the puzzle all do come together quite logically.  And it is this type of a storytelling device which I found so engaging and innovative with “Everything Everywhere.” 

Reality-bending as a science-fiction narrative has been addressed before in such contemporary classics as “The Matrix” and Christopher Nolan’s “Inception,” but there is something about “Everything Everywhere” which feels so fresh and inventive, and I would dare say to a level in which the notion of multiverse jumping has never really been explored in modern cinema.  Adding to the fact that social issues of Asian-American identity with its conflicting concerns of loyalty to family and dedication to personal love and desire are dealt with head on here, this is a film which simply put, is a must-watch for an entire generation. 

The casting here is incredibly put together.  Internationally renowned Malaysian superstar Michelle Yeoh shines brilliantly as protagonist Evelyn, and this is seriously some of the best dramatic work which I’ve seen her do yet as she steadily carries this film.  Newcomer Chinese-American actress Stephanie Hsu does a serviceable job as daughter Joy, but the real supporting standout for me is Waymond, played by Vietnamese-born actor Ke Huy Quan, whom I remember so well when he was a child actor in the popular 1980s hits “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” and “Goonies,” two among many favorite childhood films of mine.    

Only time will tell on how cinematic history will judge “Everything Everywhere All At Once” in the years to come, but this much I can say. This movie will stand out as one of the most outstanding and imaginative for 2022.   

© The FilAm 2022

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