In a world where tweets are considered daily reading and three-minute TikTok videos are considered too long, there are few pieces of long-form media that can enthrall a younger audience. The movie business in particular is quickly falling behind. The pandemic battered the already struggling industry. Movies have lost their spot at the forefront of the American psyche, and this is especially true for the younger demographic. In fact, according to a 2021 study titled “Digital Media Trends” done by Deloitte, when Gen-Z consumers ranked entertainment activities, watching TV or movies came in 5th place. Only 10% ranked watching TV or movies as their first choice; most chose social media and browsing the internet.
There are certain movies, though, that manage to permeate the social media sphere. One of note is “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” The power of social media to bring the attention back to the silver screen is not to be dismissed when it comes to this film.
“Everything Everywhere All at Once,” directed by Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (also known as “The Daniels”) stars Michelle Yeoh, who plays a Chinese American mother named Evelyn. Evelyn and her family live above their failing laundromat, and she seems eternally disappointed in her husband as well as her daughter. To Evelyn, her husband, Waymond, verges on child-like. He is a bother to her, yet he happily tries to appease her. He is not as submissive as he seems though — it is revealed that Waymond has been preparing to serve Evelyn with divorce papers. Their daughter, Joy, is gay. Evelyn says that she accepts Joy for who she is, but it’s apparent that she doesn’t completely do so. When Gong Gong, Evelyn’s dad, comes to visit for Chinese New Year, Evelyn introduces Joy’s girlfriend as Joy’s friend. Evelyn defends herself by saying that Gong Gong wouldn’t understand.
Early on in the movie, Evelyn and Waymond, along with Gong Gong, must make it to a very important appointment. An audit of the laundromat brings the trio to the IRS, where they are told that they must get their affairs in order — or else the laundromat will be seized. It is in the elevator ride to their meeting that Evelyn first encounters the multiverse. Throughout the meeting, between harsh words from the auditor, played by Jamie Lee Curtis, and silly-sounding questions from Waymond, Evelyn is sucked into another universe.
Described as an “absurdist comedy-drama,” “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is silly and eccentric, with elements that ground parts of it in more traditional drama. One of the most notable lines in the movie is this: “In another life, I would have really liked just doing laundry and taxes with you.” It is spoken halfway through the movie and helps transition the film into the other heartfelt scenes that it has to offer.
Some of the most spectacular things about the movie are the starring actors themselves. Michelle Yeoh shows that she has the ability to play characters outside of the cold mother/regal queen supporting roles she’s often portrayed. As Evelyn, her first lead part in a Hollywood movie, she is vibrant. Yeoh said in an interview: “I waited a long time for this. I was patient. I was resilient.” For her, the role was liberating. In Evelyn, she recognized “mothers, aunties, grandmothers who are in Chinatown, or in the supermarket, but nobody ever notices them. They just walk straight past them. I wanted to give them a voice. I wanted to make them the superhero.” As one of the most recognizable Asian American actors on the silver screen, no one is more deserving of a chance like this.
Ke Huy Quan, who plays Waymond, is also uniquely multi-talented. In a span of five seconds, Quan switches from seemingly-naive Waymond to multi-dimensional hero to suave man in a tuxedo. Known by some for his role as Indiana Jones’ child sidekick, Quan was picked by Steven Spielberg to play Short Round in 1984’s “Temple of Doom” at age 12. He had another part in “The Goonies” shortly thereafter but then struggled to find work as an Asian actor in Hollywood. For both Yeoh and Quan, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is liberation and redemption in one.
Redemption may be sweet, but victory more so. “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is no doubt going to be a favorite in the Oscars nomination process. Having broken the A24 domestic box office record, hitting $49.1 million on May 19, it has bested A24’s past Oscar-nominated film, “Lady Bird,” which brought in $48.95 million. According to Forbes, it is likely to end up among the 10 best picture Oscar nominees and among the five nominated original screenplays. This is a big deal — most Oscar-nominated movies struggle to pass $20 million.
It’s hard to explain everything that goes on in “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” simply because it’s so entirely jam-packed. The movie’s heartfelt mother-daughter scenes are sandwiched by butt plug karate montages and a multiverse with hot dog fingers, but it’s these exact scenarios that lead to its success. Its ability to be hilarious, gut-wrenching and thrilling all at once is what makes “Everything Everywhere All at Once” so special.
Although things are never certain in the multiverse, there is one thing “Everything Everywhere All at Once” makes crystal clear: You will never look at an everything bagel the same way again.