Between flatulence and flurries of surrealism, Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s Swiss Army Man (2016) told a slyly affecting, existential tale of life, death and friendship. For their second trick, the Daniels aren’t reining in the extremes.
More sophomore surge than slump, Everything… thrives in the push-pull between off-the-charts excess and grounding humanity. The result is a head trip, a riot – and a bit erratic. But, as with Swiss’ Daniel Radcliffe turn, the Daniels’ trump card is the exquisite anchorage their leads provide as everyday people juggling multiverses of responsibility, even before the actual multiverse arrives.
Michelle Yeoh is Evelyn, a Chinese American woman struggling with her launderette, husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan), daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu), judge-y father (James Hong), party arrangements and taxes. Her world splinters at an IRS interrogation when an alt-universe Waymond recruits her in a ’verse-jumping war to stop enigmatic being Jobu Tupaki, whose actions threaten the multiverse’s stability.
From here, anything goes as the Daniels mash up tones, genres, styles, stocks, aspect ratios, character types and beyond. As kung-fu cataclysms mix with Ratatouille riffs, big ideas with low japes, deep thoughts with Chekhov’s anal dilators, family drama with dildo fights, your pupils will saucer like the googly eyes Waymond loves so much.
Running with the binding spiral motifs (washing machines, mirrors, bagels), it’s a film of ever-increasing circles, whose pleasures erupt initially in the lack of measure. Somewhere between the hot-dog hands and sentient rocks, though, Everything… does spiral off-track. If the manifold movie homages and loose-firing gags can mean everything or anything, they’re only a short spin-cycle from meaning nothing.
Yet the Daniels are too wise to neglect the value of cast and character. Quan and IRS inspector Jamie Lee Curtis’ performances are gifts from cinephile directors. Yeoh, meanwhile, summons vast reserves of charismatic range as Eve’s multiverse variants, nailing the roles of superstar, flustered mum and more before the finale’s emotional sucker-punch reflections on family, fulfilment and human connection. The Daniels remember to honour the prime ’verse’s stakes. Unlike that bagel, there’s no hole in this unruly delight’s big, beating heart.
4 out of 5
Everything Everywhere All at Once review: “A heartfelt carnival of chaos”
Come for the wild ideas, stay for the warm wisdom in the Daniels’ heartfelt carnival of chaos. Yeoh aces every curveball.