Never has there been a more truthful title. In Everything Everywhere All at Once, the filmmakers adhere to the motto that too much is never enough.
Married for many years, demanding Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh) and henpecked Waymond Wang (Ke Huy Quan), born and raised in China, own and operate a laundromat in California’s Simi Valley.
They’re currently coping with long-festering marital problems along with a threatening IRS tax audit at which surly Agent Deirdre Beaubeirdra (Jamie Lee Curtis) threatens to seize their business and personal assets.
Meanwhile, Evelyn’s judgmental father (James Hong) is visiting from China and their exasperated lesbian daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu) wants to bring her girlfriend Becky (Tallie Medel) to their Chinese New Year party.
In the midst of Evelyn’s angst, inexplicably transformed Waymond gives her a set of instructions to enter a chaotic, surreal multiverse, which details the many alternate lives she could have lived.
Instead of leaving China, for example, Evelyn could have become a glamorous kung fu action star – or a knife-wielding hibachi chef.
In further hyper-edited, verse-jumping flights of fancy, harried Evelyn and aggressive Deirdre become lovers, intertwining hotdog-like fingers, squirting mustard and ketchup. Or become boulders perched on a cliff, or pinatas dangling from a tree. In a parallel dimension, Joy becomes Evelyn’s anarchist adversary, Jobu Tupaki, touting the Everything Bagel.
Filmmakers Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, best known for casting Daniel Radcliffe as a flatulent corpse in the absurdist “Swiss Army Man” (2016), bill themselves simply as the Daniels.
Working with cinematographer Larkin Seiple and production designer Jason Kisvarday, they’ve concocted this new, somewhat incoherent, mind-bending, sci-fi fantasy, pivoting around self-discovery and the existential parent/child bond.
The best parts involve Jamie Lee Curtis’ physical transformation into frumpy Deirdre and iconic Michelle Yeoh’s martial arts skill; stuntman Timothy Eulich coordinated the challenging wirework. But it’s like watching a deftly structured Sliding Doors concept become an action-packed, cacophonous Cloud Atlas.
On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, Everything Everywhere All at Once is a fragmented, frenetic 5, playing in theaters.