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It's All Happening 

Everything Everywhere All At Once

Sorry, I'm gonna date myself real quick. One of the only times I ever skipped school was March 31 of my senior year when I took off during lunch to go to the first showing of "The Matrix" at my local theater. Yeah, I was a real troublemaker. I went into that movie expecting some badass action and kung-fu, but not the trippy, reality-bending carnival ride the film ended up being. By the time the film ended and I was walking out of the theater, I genuinely felt like a different person than the one who walked in, no red or blue pill needed.

click to enlarge Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan and Stephanie Hsu are remarkable in "EEAAO." - PHOTO COURTESY OF A24
  • Photo courtesy of A24
  • Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan and Stephanie Hsu are remarkable in "EEAAO."

A lot of teenagers (and people in general) are going to have the same reaction when they see "Everything Everywhere All At Once," the new film by Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (collectively known as Daniels), the dementedly brilliant minds behind "Swiss Army Man." When I watched "EEAAO" this week, it felt like the first time I watched "The Matrix" or "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" or "2001," so I did the same thing I did after watching those originally: I watched it again right away. And it was even better.

A flawless Michelle Yeoh plays Evelyn Wang, a first generation Chinese-American running a struggling laundromat with her unhappy husband, Waymond (Ke Huy Quan...Data from "The Goonies!"), while also dealing with her daughter Joy (a mercurial Stephanie Hsu) who she hardly understands and her judgmental father Gong Gong (James Hong) who has recently arrived from China. On top of the family difficulties, the laundromat is being audited by an intense IRS agent, Deirdre Beaubeidra (Jamie Lee Curtis) and, oh yeah, the multiverse is in danger of folding into a black hole that looks like an Everything Bagel.

There's a lot more to it than that, with a plot that keeps expanding as the film rockets through the fastest-paced 140 minutes I've ever seen a film sustain. But the reason why "Everything Everywhere All At Once" is a remarkable work of art and a landmark in cinema isn't because of the insanely original story or the constantly jaw-dropping visuals as we careen through dozens of Evelyn's lives across the multiverse. It's because at its core, Daniels have made a film powered by sheer unfiltered empathy.

Even if you couldn't care less about all the sci-fi/kung-fu trappings, this is a movie purely of this moment in history, asking its audience if they're OK, if they feel unmoored from the Earth and if the center of gravity feels a little looser than it once did. It's a deeply profound examination of the moments that make up our lives, the family we are born into and the fundamental flaw of nihilism, hidden at the center of a genre picture.

Where the Daniels have really blown my mind is that they have a novel solution for what ails the world. So many movies have big ideas and love to deconstruct society and its flaws, but when it comes time to show their work and get to fixing the problem, they just shrug and ask the audience to figure it out. "Everything Everywhere All At Once" has a solution so simple it's almost naive. Kindness: just understanding everyone is going through their own multiverse of struggles and they might need a minute to catch their breath.

The Daniels succeed in so very many things with this movie, but none more than this: They made me wish in the existence of a multiverse so I could find a universe in which I haven't seen "Everything Everywhere All At Once" and watch it with fresh eyes again. Movies like this one are remarkable and rare, and I shouldn't compare it to "The Matrix." It's better.

Everything Everywhere All At Once
Dir. Daniels
Grade: A
Now playing at Regal Old Mill and Tin Pan Theater

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