Olivia Norten ’25 (She/Her)
It has become increasingly obvious, especially in a market dominated by large studios and their even larger respective franchises, that the film industry is running out of ideas. Marquees outside of movie theaters now display the same predictable lineup of the newest Marvel installment, a remake of an older film or book, and forgettable fillers playing into the same old action and horror tropes. Don’t get me wrong, most of these movies are fine, some of them are even great, but they all continue to be missing that something that knocks you completely off your feet: a movie that you can’t seem to get out of your head for days after you emerge from the darkness of the theater.
I have been waiting for this film to come along, and I believe that I have finally found it within A24’s newest release Everything, Everywhere, All at Once. As a film buff-in-training, I have a great deal of respect for A24’s work in persisting as an independent studio, even though many of their films receive very limited theatrical releases and minimal attention from the influential awards circuit. Many casual media consumers will probably recognize breakthrough successes such as the 2019 horror classic Midsommar and the smash-hit TV show Euphoria, but you will be hard pressed to find someone who has seen, or even heard of, films like C’mon, C’mon, one of the best movies of the 2021 awards season that went completely overlooked. To me, the appeal of the studio comes from their continuous attempts to find niches in the market that have yet to be creatively explored, and Everything, Everywhere, All at Once triumphantly tackles one of the hottest film concepts right now: the multiverse.
The film is centered around Michelle Yeoh’s Evelyn Wang, her husband, Waymond, and their daughter, Joy, first-generation Chinese immigrants who cannot seem to finish the taxes of the laundromat they run and live above. That’s the central point of the plot. I’m not even kidding. So how does this barebones concept explode into one of the most bonkers, emotional, and original sci-fi movies I’ve ever seen? With the incorporation of the multiverse. While navigating her soft-spoken husband attempting to serve her divorce papers and her daughter seeking acceptance of her girlfriend and sexuality, high-strung Evelyn gets notified that she is the only one who can save her universe from a supremely powerful multidimensional figure while at a meeting at the IRS. Again, not kidding.
The genius of this movie comes from the perfect balance between ridiculous and well-developed action sequences paired with core elements of realism that result in disarmingly emotional family dynamics. As Evelyn embarks on her journey to save her universe from Jobu Tupaki’s swirling omni-universal black hole of despair (that just happens to be an everything bagel), she is able to connect with other versions of herself from other timelines and harness their skills. This allows for over-the-top, often crude, often unbelievably funny interactions with the same incredible cast of supporting characters that play different roles in Evelyn’s life in every universe. With a standout performance by a hilariously unhinged Jamie Lee Curtis as the IRS employee assigned to audit the laundromat’s taxes, Everything, Everywhere, All at Once is a roller-coaster following Evelyn’s journey to save the world and rebuild her family along the way, but it is one that I felt myself never wanting to get off.
Due to the immense task of building an entirely new cinematic setting, it is easy to get lost in the maximalism and detail that the film throws at you for almost two and a half hours. However, if you let yourself submit to a ridiculous world of pinky finger karate, a Ratatouille-style sentient racoon, and an ending that will have you sobbing in front of your poor friend who agreed to take you to the theater, you’ll be left with the important existential attitude that even when life feels huge and unmanageable, we still matter. With Michelle Yeoh and A24 at their best, Everything, Everywhere, All at Once is a once in a lifetime film that will blow your mind in the greatest, wackiest way possible. But, most importantly, it will also leave viewers with both hope for a more understanding future as we continue to navigate uncertain global terrains, as well as certainty that the arthouse film industry is uniquely able to connect with audiences in ways that will keep movie theater lights shining for years to come.
Olivia Norten ‘25 is an intended psychology major with a gender and sexuality Studies minor from Rochester, NY. Olivia can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.