Genre is often arbitrary, something that’s used to needlessly categorize movies or books on Netflix or iTunes, seemingly because we’ve yet to think of a better system to recommend things we like. However, there is some method to the madness. Essentially, genre means conventions, and we, the viewers, have learned what to expect when we’re told what kind of movie we’re about to see. Of course, it can be delightful to see familiar conventions performed again and again, but perhaps the genre film is at its best when subverting its own conventions to defy tradition, or, in some special cases, combine with something else to make something just about near perfect.
Everything Everywhere All at Once is the latest from powerhouse distribution company A24. Directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Stewart (known collectively as ‘Daniels’), the film features typical laundromat owner Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh) as she struggles with financial upkeep and keeping her family together. It isn’t until Evelyn is faced with a tax audit that things start to get interesting. Evelyn is introduced to the multiverse, in which she must channel different versions of herself in order to defeat an agent of chaos.
It’s also one of the most visually dynamic and versatile films in recent memory. As Evelyn transcends universes, the viewer is treated to different visual styles. One segment is reminiscent of Wong Kar Wai’s In The Mood For Love. Another calls back Yeoh’s previous work in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Some settings are zany; others are sparse and sleek. It is clear that every frame of the film was carefully designed and well thought out, coming together and creating something that can be watched repeatedly.
Performances in the movie are not to be missed. Yeoh carries the film as the main character. Her charm, charisma, and varied acting styles, depending on the scenario, are delightful. Even so, the supporting cast shines just as brightly. Jamie Lee Curtis takes on a significant role that shows her expert comedic timing, and Ke Huy Quan’s Waymond compliments Yeoh’s Evelyn perfectly. Perhaps the most enchanting surprise, though, is Stephanie Hsu, as Evelyn’s daughter Joy. Hsu holds her ground with the much more seasoned Yeoh. Being asked to play variations of the same or similar characters is no small feat even for an experienced actor, and Hsu does it superbly.
A great cast and interesting features are enough to make a bad movie fun to watch, but Everything Everywhere All at Once is far from a bad movie. The fact that the film is an action movie will come as no surprise to those who have seen the trailer or are familiar with Yeoh’s work. Along with many of the supporting cast, she aptly demonstrates martial arts skills in many extremely enjoyable fight sequences. However, the film may actually be surprising because it takes on many different genres and forms throughout its two-hour and twelve-minute runtime.
It’s also a comedy and one of the funniest movies to hit theaters in the past year. The dialogue is snappy and witty and will be sure to leave the audience rolling in their seats. The real strength is that the comedy blends with the action instead of overshadowing it, allowing the film to be both revered and enjoyable. What’s more, Everything Everywhere All at Once is a family film with a whole lot of heart. As it will certainly make you laugh, it might make you cry. In a balance that’s exceedingly rare these days, the film successfully combines three genres to create something about a family that can be enjoyed by a family while maintaining a dedication to the craft in all three areas.
It’s pretty remarkable to see one singular film do it all in any scenario, but Everything Everywhere All at Once does it all with grace and style. As far as categorization goes, the viewer might have some trouble. But, no matter what label the Blu-ray collector or theater manager decides to slap on top, the movie does a good job. It can be whatever genre you want it to be. After all, it is everything, everywhere, all at once.