de facto film reviews 2.5 stars

The absurdist duo of Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (aka The Daniels) conjures up a dizzying, formally visual, and messy metaphysical confection of many bombastic ideas in Everything Everywhere All at Once, that appear to be unleashed with the sensibilities of Terry Gilliam and Michel Gondry. No doubt inventive with its style and editing, there is something numbing and assaulting to the senses as it grandiosity dives into a half-baked imaginative world of a Chinese immigrant family attempting to reconnect their bond as they fleet through the four dimensions within the space time continuum where we see different variations of themselves in alternate realities. Within these alternative realities we see various desires, emotions, determinism, and scenarios play into its themes on fatalism. In some dimensions, characters even have hot dog franks as fingers, while, of course, other destinies emerge where characters use butt plugs and bagels to somehow gain their powers in alternate realities.

We also have some avant-garde moments in the film where Hibachi chefs are mind-controlled by racoons, and people turn into talking rocks. Then we have some odd lyrical moments where the Daniels will play a misplaced homage to Wong Kar-Wai, as well as a really comical 2001: A Space Odyssey gag that dissolves away into recycled humor, and other nonsensical moments that dip into some basic philosophical ideas of fatalism and inevitability.

Everything Everywhere All at Once' review: Michelle Yeoh stars in the mind-bending metaverse movie you didn't know you needed - CNN

There are certainly some philosophical and metaphysical ideas to be found, and many will find it very cinematic with its ultra-stylized setting, but overall, the Daniels prove just once more that they are filmmakers with very little restraint or subtly–even though they enjoy slowing things down with a “poignant” finale that I admit won me over in its end, even though you have to endure a whole lot of mess of a film to get there. While the mess is deliberate by design, the end result is a very over-directed film that shows very little restraint with its style, and at times it feels like watching nails on a chalkboard, which is luckily anchored by an impressive performance by Malaysian actress Michelle Yeoh. The film has all the makings of an audience and critic crowd pleaser, especially for younger audiences who grew up with Marvel, DC, A24 films, Zack Synder, and Edgar Wright films over the last decade. However, the repetition of the same idea merged with some infantile humor and some silly visual gags certainly tested my patience at times.

This is by no means a surprise, considering the Daniels do come across as style-over-substance filmmakers who like to cover up their flaws just to engage you in the third act with some humanism. Their feature debut, Swiss Army Man, was another monotonous film that was about a dead corpse (Daniel Radcliff) that endlessly farts and his dead body being used as a lifesaving prop for its protagonist (Paul Dano), which also merged the infantile with the genuine, especially in its last act, in some of its ideas about alienation and suicide.

Movie Review: 'Everything Everywhere All at Once'

The Daniels once again deliver their same low-brow humor with some interesting ideas that feel overstuffed, even enough for a mini-series, in which the Daniels have turned the material into a very exhausting 130 minutes that feels tedious and repetitious. Many audiences will no doubt appreciate the film’s visual inventiveness with its quick-cuts, montages, and other technical aspects with its editing, which comes off like a live-action cartoon that I’m sure many people are going to enjoy getting high on in years to come. While the ambitions are to be commended, it’s a draining and exhausting experience that leaves a lot of contradictory feelings, ranging from being in awe to feeling severely annoyed.

Borrowing from The Matrix and other Marvel films with multiple universes, such as Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and Spider-Man: No Way Home, but this time it feels even more complicated. Yeoh plays Evelyn Wang, who co-owns a laundromat with her husband Raymond (Ke Huy Quan) (from Goonies, Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom), who is being audited by the IRS for mishandled funds. As her tax burdens become overwhelming, she also has personal problems as she feels a disconnect with her father, Gong (James Hong), in which Gong disapproves of everything Evelyn does, and, in many ways, Evelyn takes her mistreatment by her father out on her own daughter, Joy (Stephanie Hsu).

Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022) - Movie | Moviefone

Raymond feels completely detached from Evelyn, with stress from the laundromat, and after feeling very disrespected, he ends up filing for a divorce. Eventually, another version of himself takes over his psyche. This version of Raymond also has a crew of other parallel proxies that allow Raymond to guide Evelyn into finding alternate lives for herself. In a Twin Peaks: Return style, Raymond ends up giving Eveyln access to the psyches of many different realities, which allows Eveyln access to the psyches of many different realities.

Chaos begins to erupt as Evelyn gets audited by Deirde (Jamie Lee Curtis), the IRS agent who is auditing her business. A verse-jump occurs, and we begin to see all these alternate realities emerge and many narratives unspool in paradoxical ways. We learn to understand that Evelyn has different possessions in other realities where she is a martial arts action star, an opera singer, a hibachi chef, a brain surgeon, a pizzeria owner, and even a rock. There is another universe where she is in love with Deirde and everyone has hot dogs for fingers, and instead of staying focused on certain subplots, many of these visual gags are just repeated jokes over and over, much like the endless corpse farting in Swiss Army Man. Each of these “subplots,” if you will, is also presented with very quick cuts, almost montages, that are comprehensive enough but feel rushed and feel like visual gags.

Everything Everywhere All at Once trailer: Michelle Yeoh takes a trip across the multiverse | EW.com

To the film’s strengths, there is some creativity that has a sense of youth to it that feels spontaneous, spirited, and energetic. There is something prankish about the Daniels, but sadly, their style is too hyperactive and in need of a dose of cinematic Ritalin. There is no set of limits or restraint to their vision or style. They overstuff their material with too many ideas, too many homages, allegories, throwbacks, and gags that are in serious need of self-control.

The film holds many downsides, though. Many of the gags become a detriment to the film. One that reminds you of funny sketches you would see in a cartoon is Adult Swin. There is even a moment where someone is beaten to death with dildos. There are also other bizarre gags involving a reality where chefs are mind-controlled by raccoons, and there is an afterlife involving a bagel that’s a motif throughout the film. The film’s final 20 minutes or so try to achieve some sort of poignancy where Eveyln tries to find redemption with her family, but as often, amends are made, and the film appears to have played all of its energy out by the time it slows down.

While Michelle Yeoh is quite commanding in her role, it’s difficult to enjoy her performance when she’s trapped in such a mess of a film. Filmmakers like Kwan and Sheinart don’t know how to tone things down with their high-concept films. While technically impressive on some levels, the approach and potential are derailed by an overwhelming style and endless juvenile gags. Observing these aspirant filmmakers makes one realize that they require an honest co-writer to bring some subtly. They tend to overwork the material by believing that more is better, when it’s too often not the case. There is certainly a gem to be found in this film, perhaps a diamond in a rough cut, or repeat viewings will grow with age. Regardless, it’s an interesting and ambitious experience that is need of some more fine-tuning.