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Everything Everywhere All at Once is pure, joyous adrenaline with heart

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Co-writers/directors Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert helm this comedy action fantasy about aging Chinese immigrant Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh), who discovers she has the power to explore parallel universes and inhabit and learn from the lives she could have lived. With her newfound power and skills, she alone can save the endangered multiverse from Jobu Tupaki (Stephanie Hsu). (139 min.)

KUNG FU MISTRESS Michelle Yeoh (center) stars as Evelyn Wang, a mild-mannered mother and wife with a struggling laundry business who's suddenly called upon to save the multiverse when a malevolent superbeing threatens all existence, in Everything Everywhere All at Once, screening in local theaters. - PHOTO COURTESY OF AGBO, HOTDOG HANDS, AND LEY LINE ENTERTAINMENT
  • Photo Courtesy Of Agbo, Hotdog Hands, And Ley Line Entertainment
  • KUNG FU MISTRESS Michelle Yeoh (center) stars as Evelyn Wang, a mild-mannered mother and wife with a struggling laundry business who's suddenly called upon to save the multiverse when a malevolent superbeing threatens all existence, in Everything Everywhere All at Once, screening in local theaters.
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Glen This joyous, batshit-crazy romp went beyond my high expectations. The movie's buzz is absolutely well-deserved. Evelyn Wang is stressed to the max. Her business is being audited by the IRS, her lesbian daughter, Joy (Stephanie Hsu), is directionless, her husband (Ke Huy Quan) wants a divorce, and her very traditional and demanding father, Gong Gong (the great James Hong), is visiting from China and is expecting an amazing party. On top of that, Evelyn worries about how to introduce her daughter's girlfriend, Becky (Tallie Medel), to her father, and then there's Deirdre Beaubeirdra (Jamie Lee Curtis, chewing the scenery like a champ), the IRS agent who's beyond fed up with Evelyn's excuses and bookkeeping. Talk about a bad time to be called on to save the world! As she slowly wraps her head around her ability to move from one universe to the next, Evelyn begins to acquire the skills she'll need to defeat Jobu Tupaki (also Stephanie Hsu), and if she's lucky, maybe repair her damaged relationships with her husband and daughter.

Anna This film is nothing short of brilliant. It evokes such tenderness juxtaposed with hilarity—just that perfect mix of everything, all at once. Yeoh plays the martyr who feels she sacrificed the possibility of a great life to move to America with her husband, soon to become trapped in a life she didn't want—running a struggling laundromat with scant income and living in a cramped apartment, mother to a daughter she refuses to understand. When the allure of living the million different lives that could have been hers comes on too strong, she risks putting the whole multiverse into the dangerous path of Jobu Tupaki. What if she had said "no" to her mild-mannered (which reads to Evelyn as weak) beau when he asked to take her with him to America? What if she listened to her overbearing father who would rather die with his principles than admit to his own human error? Quan is wonderful as the sweet and patient husband, Waymond, as well as his more daring multiverse double, Alpha-Waymond. Evelyn takes his kind disposition for weakness, when in fact his demeanor is the only thing saving them from complete ruin. There are so many dynamics going on here, but I can't stress this enough: It may look like a "weird" movie, and in many ways it is, but it's weird in that wonderful way that doesn't happen often. This film is one I'll watch over and over again.

Glen I certainly didn't anticipate how deeply emotional the film would become. What starts as a madcap adventure turns into a sincere meditation on the meaning of life and prioritizing what's truly important. It's about acceptance of yourself and others. Yeoh anchors all the craziness with a steady, nuanced, and thoughtful performance. All her regrets, her what-ifs, her could've-beens are what makes her the perfect hero. Her utter averageness is the blank slate upon which the multiverse can create its masterpiece, and as Evelyn grapples with the realization that she and her daughter share more in common than she likes to admit, their weaknesses become their strengths. This is a reminder about how great movies can be when they're willing to break out of Hollywood's filmmaking-by-committee redundancy. What happens when you make a film with a taste of every film genre? This movie is your answer.

Anna Not going to lie—I cried a bunch in this one. Evelyn is weighed down by her life. She's Sisyphus pushing the boulder up the hill over and over. She sees so much of her potential wasted, lost, unfulfilled. She can't connect with the people around her, yet she's desperate for approval from those unwilling to grant it. The mother/daughter struggle really strikes a chord emotionally, as does the tightrope on which Evelyn's marriage sits. She is paralyzed in her ideas of right and wrong, happiness and misery. Funny and sad and eventually hopeful, this film was a breath of fresh air for me—amusing and moving and wonderfully odd. I loved it. Δ

Senior Staff Writer Glen Starkey and freelancer Anna Starkey write Split Screen. Glen compiles streaming listings. Comment at gstarkey@newtimesslo.com.

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