Spinning Symbols of the Multiverse

Everything Everywhere All at Once is a hilarious and mind-bending sci-fi comedy about Evelyn Wang, a laundromat owner who can travel across parallel universes and save them from a nefarious villain. Starring Michelle Yeoh, this movie blends The Matrix with humor, action, romance and more.

By Cemal Can Özmumcu

Picture: Via Pixabay, CC0

In its latest cinematic adventure Everything Everywhere All at Once, the creative duo known as the Daniels (Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert) challenges our perception of reality and takes viewers on a wild ride through multiple dimensions. Starring Michelle Yeoh as Evelyn Wang, a stressed-out laundromat owner who finds herself in the middle of a cosmic battle, this movie is a genre-bending extravaganza that mixes sci-fi, comedy, action, romance and more.

Evelyn leads a dull and stressful life. But everything changes when she discovers that she can jump between parallel universes where she encounters different versions of herself and her loved ones. She also learns that she is the only one who can stop a rogue verse jumper who plans to destroy all realities. In this sci-fi comedy, Evelyn must face her fears, regrets, hopes and dreams, and embrace all possibilities.

Washing Machines and The Matrix: How Evelyn Breaks the Cycle

To convey these multiple dimensions, the movie uses various symbols and references that enrich its meaning and appeal. After the brief opening scene in the living room, the camera moves downstairs where the laundromat is situated. The fact that the movie begins with the laundromat is not coincidental, as the washing machine is a recurring and significant symbol in Evelyn’s life. It reflects various facets of her identity and destiny. On the one hand, being a laundromat owner might be a metaphor for Evelyn’s life as a Chinese-American immigrant who feels trapped in a world of mundane chores and unfulfilled dreams. On the other hand, numerous washing machines that endlessly cycle through their routines could also represent the parallel universes Evelyn can access. Interestingly, she is the only person who has privileged access to both laundry as the owner and to the parallel universes. She is the one who can break the cycle. This simultaneity of the mundane and the supernatural makes Evelyn reminiscent of one of the most famous Sci-Fi heroes: The Matrixs Neo.

The movie draws inspiration from the iconic film in many ways, such as the office scene that echoes the beginning of Neo’s journey, the role of Deirdre as a defender of the system like Agent Smith, and the theme of identity and choice in a multiverse. However, it also creates its own unique and inventive story, with Evelyn as a different kind of hero who does not have to choose between realities, but learns to embrace them all. It is a potpourri of genres, amalgamating science-fiction, humor and martial arts sequences with stunning visuals and a diverse cast. It is a movie that will appeal to fans of The Matrix, but also surprise and delight them with its originality and creativity.

The Subversive Symbolism of the Holey Bagel

Another symbol that the film uses is the bagel as a representation of the multiverse and its implications. Seemingly simple but cunningly subversive, the bagel has a circular shape that suggests a never-ending cycle of repetition and variation. It also has a hole in the middle that evokes the black hole, a mysterious phenomenon that can devour everything in its path. That way, it is also tied in with the metaphor of the washing machine which can spin and transform things. Jobu Tupaki, the villain of the film, uses the bagel to explain her nihilistic worldview, a void that signifies emptiness or despair. This reflects the human condition in a way, a journey through life like laundry in a washing machine, twisted and turned, stained and worn, hoping to emerge refreshed and new. But the bagel is also something sweet, something desirable, like a longing for wholeness. But these conflicting properties create a striking contrast that underpins the serious-absurd duality of the movie, reminiscent of a yin-yang which is a cycle, running on and on around itself like a washing machine of bifurcating realities.

The movie showcases an impressive cast giving nuanced and heartfelt performances. Michelle Yeoh delivers a brilliant and versatile performance as Evelyn, showing her range and depth as an actress. She portrays different versions of Evelyn with subtle but noticeable variations, making each one believable and relatable. She also showcases her impressive martial arts skills in several action scenes, proving that she is a formidable heroine. Stephanie Hsu plays both Jobu Tupaki, the main antagonist, and Joy, Evelyn’s daughter. This double casting creates a stronger emotional impact in the movie, as Evelyn must face her own daughter as her enemy in different realities. This creates a dilemma for Evelyn, who loves Joy but also must stop Jobu from destroying the multiverse. It also creates a challenge for Stephanie Hsu, who has to portray both characters with nuance and depth. Yet, she manages to prove her talent and versatility as an actress who can play both roles convincingly and compellingly. Jamie Lee Curtis is also excellent as Deirdre, the IRS auditor who becomes Evelyn’s nemesis across dimensions. She brings a sense of menace and mystery to her character, as well as some comic relief.

The Multifaceted Heroine of the Multiverse

The movie also manages to inject humor and fun into Evelyn’s journey, as she experiences various absurd and hilarious situations in different realities. For example, in one universe, she is a skilled chef in a parody of Ratatouille; in another, she has hot dog hands along with the rest of the world. These scenes contrast with the more serious and dramatic moments of the movie, creating a dynamic and engaging tone that keeps viewers entertained and invested. Along the way, she encounters various allies and enemies who challenge her to confront her fears, regrets, hopes and dreams, and to make choices that will affect not only her own fate, but also the fate of the multiverse. In a way, Evelyn’s journey is like a washing machine that cleanses and refreshes her in the process of breaking the cycle.

Everything Everywhere All at Once is not only a visual feast that showcases the Daniels’ imaginative and inventive style, but also an emotional journey that explores Evelyn’s character arc and personal growth. She starts off as a woman who feels trapped and unhappy in her life, but gradually realizes that she has more potential and agency than she thinks. She also learns to appreciate what she has in this universe, such as her family and her love. By the end of the movie, she becomes a hero who can save not only the multiverse, but also herself. It is not only a movie that will make you laugh, cry, think and marvel but also one that celebrates diversity, creativity and humanity.

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