Everything Everywhere All at Once has an intriguing title. The story seems simple, a family that owns a laundromat needs to organize their business. Diedre Beaubeirdra (Jamie Lee Curtis) is investigating the family’s documents for their tax filing. She becomes a menacing monster terrorizing Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh) throughout the multiverse.
Out of that simple nugget of a story, Evelyn is distracted by her tangled life. She can’t pay attention to what’s going on but denies her wandering attention. Through the film she finds what her life could have been.
Threaded through the story is humor and the ridiculous possibilities of life. Evelyn finds a way to lighten up each situation. She draws strength from the universes that she visits. Her ability to bring silliness is disarming. The film shows flashes of Evelyn in the different lives that comes from alternative choices. She can switch realities that are linked together so that Evelyn acquires new skills or memories.
When the action stops abruptly, there’s just the emotions of the Evelyn and her daughter, Joy (Stephanie Hsu). Their chase ends in a stalemate, and they try to sort out what life means. They sit on the edge of a canyon watching the peaceful beauty.
The energy of the film grows out of control with montages of rapid cuts. The screen flits between brief views of Evelyn in many universes. She speeds through possibilities until she has found the resource that the current quandary needs. Googly eyes are used to represent mischief, inner sight and traversing life’s complexity.
The film balances humor, terror and sentimental feelings as the situation turns dangerous and then ludicrous and then emotionally difficult. A path through the multiverse is not easily mapped out. An app on the phone that the universe jumping version of her husband, Waymond Wang (Ke Huy Quan), helps find the right path. The red pill is pressing a green button on the earpiece of a Bluetooth headset. Evelyn learns there she has so many possibilities because of her imagination and flexibility.
Eventually, she still can’t pay attention but is willing to come “back to earth” and acknowledge her quirks. The changes might not stop, but her zany character is game to find a way through them.