Everything Everywhere All at Once:”Sucked in by the bagel”
Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh) is having a bad day. A dreadfully bad day. Her family’s laundromat business is about to be audited by the tax office. Her husband, Waymand (Ke Huy Quan, whose voice is instantly recognisable as Short Round in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom), is trying to tell her something that will be life changing for them as a couple. Her daughter Joy’s (Stephanie Hsu) choice of life partner distresses her traditional Chinese family. To top it off, her father, Gong Gong (James Hong) who lives with her, wants breakfast. It’s enough to make anyone snap.
Multiple Waynards in the Multiverse
If all of that is not enough, her life is going to get incredibly weird and monumentally strange because Evelyn Wang is about to fall into a rift in time, space and the omniverse. Everything Everywhere All at Once will also become equally challenging for the film’s audience. Everything Everywhere All at Once is loaded with other films references. It’s a cross between a Jackie Chan Kung Fu movie (supposedly Jackie Chan refused a key role in this movie) meets Inception meets The Matrix crossed with David Cronenberg, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Suicide Squad and Godard’s Alphaville. How’s that for a pile-up of films. It sounds like a temporal train wreck but it’s indicative of Evelyn’s life and mental state.
It takes time to get to the crux of the movie’s message. During the film's 2 hours and 20 minutes running time, it seems the movie is overreaching to make its point, but, if you persevere, you will be enlightened, even if the kung fu antics are prolonged.
Weird: Don’t take that to mean you won’t engage with the film.
Not only is her personal life unresolved but she sees the disfunctionality of her life as a mirror of the times and how they have changed. People don’t trust their neighbours and institutions are crumbling. Everything is over, under, sideways and down. She wants life to get back to what it’s supposed to be.
Getting back to life as it was and as Evelyn believes it should be becomes difficult when she is catapulted into the omniverse and discovers that it is up to her to save the multiverse from the destructive Joku Tobacky. And Evelyn thought the officious tax officer Deirdre Beaubeidre (an outrageous and diabolical performance by Jamie Lee Curtis), who is auditing Evelyn’s business, was enough to contend with.
Everything Everywhere All at Once is loaded with film techniques from rotoscoping and extreme paced editing to film references and plenty of conceptual notions about life, the universe and everything. Even Marvin the Paranoid Android’s comment in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe books, “Life, don’t talk to me about life”, works in the context of this movie. You will also be introduced to memorable lines of dialogue such as, “Just be a rock”. Film paradigms abound in this movie. This is an omniverse that could have been created by Roland Barthes, a leading exponent of structuralism and semiology.
Multiple Evelyns in the omniverse
Don’t go looking for a scientific explanation regarding the omniverse and whether it’s possible to exist in multiple states across multitudinous lifelines and unlimited versions of one’s self. That misses the point of the movie. The omniverse is an allegory. On one level, it’s the story of a businesswoman being tossed and turned through the omniverse and becoming a ninja powerhouse to combat the evil Jobu Tobacky. Of course it’s weird. The underlying meaning relates to Evelyn’s disillusionment of her personal life and the choices she made that determined the drudgery and challenges of her existence.
Joy & Gong Gong in the Multiverse
Evelyn struggles to connect with her daughter, doesn’t realise Waymond’s struggles and is frustrated at her father’s constant demands and traditional cultural views. The shattered mirror image that occurs when the omniverse is disrupted throughout the movie summarises perfectly Evelyn’s predicament. The industrial sized washing machines and super large tumble driers in her laundromat are metaphors of her tumultuous life as she watches clothes tumbling as they wash and dry a jumble of clothes. Her life, indeed, is a jumble.
The allegorical nature of the omniverse makes Everything Everywhere All at Once distinctive, different and, as a result, effective in its approach to a dysfunctional woman and her disrupted and disturbed life. Through her encounters with Jobu Tobacky and the Bagel Vortex—don’t panic, all is explained in the movie—she discovers what truly matters in her life. She also realises that seeing your life through other people’s eyes and experiences affords you a fresh perspective to your seemingly disassociated world.
For most of us, in our universe, it’s still tax time and filing a tax return is stressful enough without having to deal with the omniverse and being shunted backwards, forwards, diagonally and around through an inter-dimensional alternate reality rift. Doing your tax return might seem like smooth sailing compared to navigating the omniverse. That’s why we have the creative forces of scriptwriters and directors Dan Kwan and Daniel Schienert to build an alternate film reality in Everything Everywhere All at Once so you can do your taxes and watch the movie as well. Push through the weirdness. You will get a return for the time you spend watching Everything Everywhere All at Once.
Official Trailer Everything Everywhere All at Once
FILM EXTRA: THE INTRICACIES OF RELATIONSHIPS
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
After a painful breakup, Clementine (Kate Winslet) undergoes a procedure to erase memories of her former boyfriend Joel (Jim Carrey) from her mind. When Joel discovers that Clementine is going to extremes to forget their relationship, he undergoes the same procedure and slowly begins to forget the woman that he loved. Directed by former music video director Michel Gondry, the visually arresting film explores the intricacy of relationships and the pain of loss.