Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert – the directing team often bills themselves as "Daniels" – released their first feature Swiss Army Man in 2016. Anyone who's seen Swiss Army Man, which featured Daniel Radcliffe as a talking and endlessly farting corpse, knew that the directors' followup would be clever, bizarre, and over the top. On this promise, Everything Everywhere All at Once delivers. But just as the otherwise wonderful Swiss Army Man's prosaic ending was a bit of a letdown, Everything Everywhere is an eye-popping odyssey that, at 2 hours and 19 minutes, simply wears out its welcome.
Michelle Yeoh stars as Evelyn Wang, a disgruntled Chinese immigrant who owns a laundromat somewhere in Southern California. All at once, she's getting audited (Jamie Lee Curtis is unrecognizable as an IRS agent), is about to be divorced by her kindly but fed-up husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan, the 1980s child star making an unexpected comeback), and is trying to deal with her slacker daughter Joy's (Stephanie Hsu) homosexuality. Suddenly, in the middle of a trip to the IRS, Waymond announces that he has ported over from a parallel universe, and tells Evelyn that she must help save the entire multiverse from a villainess named Jobu Tupaki... who happens to be her daughter.
What follows is a mind-boggling array of multiverse mayhem. It's exciting, it's wild, it's... exhausting. At its heart, Everything Everywhere is sort of a metaphor for the oft-strained relations between Chinese mothers and Chinese-American daughters. (It's interesting that it should come out at the same time as Turning Red, which looks at this from the daughter's point of view.) But I don't think it quite works, as the film doesn't adequately set up the conflict between Evelyn and Joy before it tells us that our entire existence is threatened by these two women butting heads. In short, they don't seem all that antagonistic at the beginning of the film. And while Quan proves himself a decent grownup actor, you never buy him as Yeoh's husband. Nine years may separate their ages in real life, but he's so boyish, she so womanly.
Everything Everywhere is still worth watching, thanks to its crazy visuals and the charms of its cast. The Daniels are clearly infatuated with Yeoh, and have designed the movie as a showcase for her charisma. They're also obviously nostalgic for the 1980s movies that featured Quan, Curtis, and "how-is-he-still-alive?" stalwart James Hong: all three actors are having a ball. Hsu, whom you may know from The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, is a great talent as well. This film is like a love letter to everything Kwan and Scheinert hold dear, including Wong Kar Wai's In the Mood for Love, which serves as one of the parallel universes for Evelyn and Waymond.
I feel like if I ever watch this film again, it will have to be frame by frame, and in small chunks. Cut into three chapters (Everything, Everywhere, and All at Once), it's overlong by a good half hour, and at times I was just plain lost. But if you want to see how much a movie can do these days, you should check it out.