• Industry

Why “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is Everywhere Now

Its current Rotten Tomatoes score is 96%, some have dubbed it the most important step forward in film in decades, and it’s all anyone can talk about. Yet talking about Everything Everywhere All at Once is difficult as it’s nearly impossible to explain or sum up.

If we were to try, we could say the film is about a first-generation, Chinese American family running a struggling laundromat in Simi Valley, California. There’s our protagonist, Evelyn Quan Wang (Michelle Yeoh), a middle-aged woman who barks and bites at everyone around her, plagued by the notion that she amounted to nothing in her life. Then there’s her kind and patient husband Waymond Wang (Ke Huy Quan). There’s Evelyn’s father (James Hong) who is ill, bitter, and visiting from China, and Evelyn’s daughter, Joy (Stephanie Hsu), who is trying to introduce her romantic partner Becky (Tallie Medel) to the family during an audit and a looming divorce. Oh, and there’s also a frustrated and spirited IRS agent Deirdre Beaubeirdra (Jamie Lee Curtis) who seems to both relish and identify with the family’s troubles.

So, we are dealing with a run-of-the-mill sci-fi, romance, coming-of-age, family, LGBTQIA+ and immigrant drama, right? Besides its defiantly indeterminate genre, here are a few more reasons why the buzz surrounding this movie won’t be dying down anytime soon.

We are living in the heyday of the multiverse. Although the term was coined by American philosopher William James in 1895 to refer to the moral meaning of natural phenomena, as opposed to the modern definition of other possible universes, the idea of a cinematic multiverse has appealed to mainstream filmmakers for a long time. Marvel has most recently capitalized on the idea (Dr. Strange and the Multiverse of Madness and Spider-Man: No Way Home), but from The One starring Jet Li in 2001 to 1998’s Sliding Doors starring Gwyneth Paltrow, the notion of different timelines netting different results has always been a writer’s dream.

Speaking of the MCU (the Marvel Cinematic Universe), the Russo brothers (Arrested Development, Community and some of the highest grossing Marvel movies of all time, including the last two Avengers films) co-produced Everything Everywhere All at Once, and their brand of quick wit, character development, and nail-biting action imbues the film. Oh, and let’s not forget that Yeoh appears briefly in 2017’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 as Aleta Ogord and as Ying Nan in 2021’s Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings.

Then there’s the fearless directing of Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, otherwise known as The Daniels. They are responsible for the, shall we say genre-bending, 2016 film Swiss Army Man about the relationship between the survivor of a shipwreck and a farting corpse (deftly played by Daniel Radcliffe).

We also get to see some of our favorite, iconic AAPI actors in a whole new way in Everything Everywhere All at Once. Don’t call it a comeback, but The Goonies and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’s own Quan steps up to the plate as both a gentle and loyal partner and father, as well as a super-cool, brooding, kung-fu expert.

And then there’s Yeoh. Although she’s been in the industry for over four decades, in films like Memoirs of a Geisha, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Kung Fu Panda, Tomorrow Never Dies and Crazy Rich Asians, this film may be the first to fully utilize all of Malaysian-born Yeoh’s acting and action chops.

“We don’t want to be a token in anybody’s film,” Yeoh said in a 2019 Hollywood Foreign Press interview. “Just because the Chinese market is very important right now, putting a Chinese face there is not going to make a difference. It has to be meaningful.” And according to 96% of critics, as well as fans around the world, Everywhere All at Once certainly checks the meaningful box, making it great tribute to how far AAPI filmmakers have come.