It’s been three years since Austin’s beloved SXSW festival screened a film. And to mark the momentous occasion, they had to return with an unforgettable Opening Night film. One that would dare to push boundaries but still command the quintessential audience energy that makes SXSW such a unique haven for World Premiere screenings. Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert delivered that, and so much more, with the uproariously funny and brilliantly absurd action-adventure, Everything Everywhere All at Once.
No one captures the true essence of fantasy and surrealism like the directing duo of Kwan and Scheinert, who often refer to themselves as “Daniels”. It was first evident with their spectacularly original 2016 debut, Swiss Army Man, and tonight’s head-spinning journey into a bizarre multiverse tale, that’s filled with both heart and hilarity, makes this proclamation official.
The film follows Evelyn Wang (played by Crazy Rich Asians’ Michelle Yeoh), an aging laundromat owner whose mundane marriage to her husband (The Goonies’ Ke Huy Quan) and fractured relationship with her daughter (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’s Stephanie Hsu) are set on a collision course of insanity when the family business gets audited by a cantankerous IRS Agent (Jamie Lee Curtis). As if dealing with her taxes and familial issues aren’t enough, Evelyn soon discovers the existence of a multiverse and learns that all of these planes of existence face a dire threat that only she can stop. Evelyn must carefully navigate through her own original reality and countless others to defeat a familiar foe and save her family in the process.
To try and explain the so aptly titled, Everything Everywhere All at Once, is to try and describe the indescribable. On its surface, the Daniels deliver a beautiful and messy sci-fi extravaganza. One that’s meticulously crafted to the tiniest speck and molded to tell an earnest story of familial struggles that run generations deep through an ultra-comedic and action-packed lens. The humor is relentless, the fight sequences are superbly choreographed and the absurdity works on such a high level, making Everything Everywhere All at Once a truly original, once-in-a-lifetime spectacle.
Not everything comes and goes without a hitch. Clocking in at nearly 140 minutes, there is a long windedness to the film that’s occasionally felt but never suffocating. Many wouldn’t think twice about sitting through a Marvel movie of that length, and Everything Everywhere All at Once has the entertainment value and hilarity to go toe-to-toe with the biggest of blockbusters. Yet, most impressive is the hearty core for which this multiverse serves as a delightfully penned metaphor.
The entire ensemble amazes with their dedication and commitment to this singular vision, and perhaps none more than the legendary Jamie Lee Curtis who really lets it all fly. But it’s Michelle Yeoh who dazzles with emotion and astonishes with her stunts, offering a memorable performance in an unforgettable film. Everything Everywhere All at Once is destined to attract the fanboy crowd and build a solid cult following, but the Daniels’ latest endeavor stands as creative surrealism at its finest and one that should be savored by the masses. The 2022 SXSW film festival started off with a bang and what a ride it was.