Everything Everywhere All At Once has staked its claim to being 2022's most imaginative and purely entertaining movie so far.
Michelle Yeoh is superb as Chinese-American laundromat owner Evelyn who, in the face of a drastic tax audit, discovers the existence of the multiverse.
What then unfolds is essentially an extended allegory for Evelyn's strained relationship with her daughter Joy (the excellent Stephanie Hsu). Within the multiverse, Joy's bundle of resentments and anxieties has caused her to manifest in the form of a demonic being named Jobu Tupaki, and now the existence of the entire universe is under threat.
Imagine The Matrix as directed by Terry Gilliam and you come some way towards imagining the texture of Everything Everywhere All At Once. The movie's surreal onrush of manic imagery is orchestrated by the directorial collective Daniels, bringing a consistent flow of being laughs and emotional truths.
Here are five moments from the movie that we simply can't wipe from our minds.
WARNING: EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE SPOILERS AHEAD
1. The bum bag/fanny pack fight
Indiana Jones and The Goonies star Ke Huy Quan has been absent from our screens for such a long time. But Quan blazes in his return as Evelyn's meek husband turned multiversal badass, honing his prowess as a stunt co-ordinator to bring some truly jaw-dropping action to the screen.
The moment where his character Waymond unleashes hell on a group of unsuspecting audit office security guards is as funny as it is thrilling. The fact that the weapon of choice is a bum bug (or 'fanny pack' if you're American) makes it all the more bizarre, yet it's also an appropriate metaphorical extension of Waymond's seemingly bland, innocuous character.
The subsequent fight choreography certainly gives Jackie Chan a run for his money. Like everything else in the movie, however, it's not just for show. Deep down, it's an allegory for Evelyn learning more about her husband as he himself learns to man up and take greater responsibility for his actions.
2. The sausage fingers multiverse
You've heard of Salad Fingers (or maybe not – Google it, if so). But Everything Everywhere delights in the grotesque spectacle of a particular multiverse where Yeoh and Jamie Lee Curtis' characters fall in love while sporting hotdog fingers.
It's not a throwaway gag but something that the Daniels return to again and again throughout the movie. Once again, look beyond the surface detail and one can detect a Freudian soup of imagery that pertains directly to Evelyn's anxieties.
The fact that in this particular multiverse she's in a relationship with another woman speaks, on a subconscious level, to Evelyn's initial disquiet about her daughter Joy being a lesbian. Once again, there's a lot more than meets the eye.
3. The 'auditor of the year' award
We simply can't describe this moment where Evelyn gets into a fight with a multiverse nemesis played by Andy Le. Suffice to say, it reduced Michelle Yeoh to tears of laughter on the set, and the scene certainly sets a new benchmark for surreal gross-out when Le's character resorts to drastic measures in order to 'verse jump' (absorb key abilities from another multiverse consciousness).
The Daniels' go for broke attitude is exemplified in moments such as this. It's a dazzling reminder of the movie's whiplash race between tonal extremities, inducing big laughs one minute and emotive poignancy the next without ever feeling scattershot.
4. The rock conversation
Midway through the movie, we're presented with a multiverse where organic life hasn't been able to thrive. This is brilliantly expressed by a non-verbal, subtitled conversation between two rocks that stand in for Evelyn and Waymond's respective consciousnesses. (We honestly wouldn't be surprised if the Daniels had tried to court Dwayne Johnson for a cameo.)
As ever, the philosophical profundity of the early going is swiftly replaced by a giddy gonzo sense of silliness. This is especially apparent when we return to the scene later on and the Waymond boulder is sporting the sort of googly eyes that Evelyn despised coming across in her laundromat.
As the Waymond rock pursues the Evelyn rock over the cliff, one can again see the visual imagery as a figurative expression of the characters' inner lives. Sometimes, in order to understand ourselves and each other, we have to just make the jump, you know?
If you thought the Paddington 2 gag in the Nicolas Cage movie The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent was genius, then Everything Everywhere one-ups it on the meta-family-film-references front.
Misremembering (and misnaming) the Disney-Pixar classic Ratatouille, Evelyn attributes a raccoon chef in place of a rat. As ever, a seemingly throwaway spoonerism, which amuses Joy no end, comes back to haunt Evelyn as a multiversal chef variation of her personality is confronted with... yes, another human chef being directed by a raccoon.
While we can't possibly imagine the script meeting that would have led to this moment, we can revel in the utter absurdism. What makes it even better is the raccoon is voiced by regular Disney-Pixar composer Randy Newman.
And the payoff gag is loaded with all kinds of emotional symbolism: the raccoon carted away by the pest control squad on Evelyn's orders, she eventually learns the value of empathy. Evelyn then takes the animal's place, taking to the man's shoulders and helping to spur him on in a moment that's as resonant as it is funny. Truthfully, one can say the same thing about the entire movie.
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