Everything Everywhere All at Once

Everything Everywhere All at Once ★★

The near-unanimous acclaim of this on here is definitely somewhat lost on me but I don't seem to be alone in wondering whether it’s appraisal as the greatest film of all time (currently sitting at #1 on Letterboxd’s top 250!) will wane after this gets a wide release. The ultimately very humanist core at the centre of this film concluding with an unabashedly sincere note on familial connection is the kind of whitepilled platitude I genuinely like to see, in spite of the cliched generational trauma-inflicted Asian tiger mum/daughter dynamic it’s packaged in. To get to there, however, the Daniels insist on belabouring every attempted gag in their much-touted multiverse to the point of absolute exhaustion. It isn’t enough to just make a suggestive aside about the appearance of an award resembling a butt plug—it has to later be literally used as such not once, but twice. And the hot dog fingers lost their novelty perhaps the second time I had to see them, let alone the fifth (or sixth?). Not only does Chekov’s gun have to go off—to the Daniels, it has to blow up in someone's face, be somehow reconstructed, and then blow up again. It doesn’t help that their lolsorandom sensibilities are almost antithetical to mine, featuring a brand of comedy I can only adequately describe as Reddit. Not too dissimilar to site-favourite Rick and Morty, which I’m sure served as a point of reference for its multiverse hijinks—a concept now apparently part of our cultural zeitgeist. Thankfully this doesn’t share the show’s tired outlook on nihilism. Although, when the film does try to tackle philosophy, its exploration of the universal ideas of determinism vs. free will is again about as subtle as a sledgehammer, literally (and I mean that in the very literal sense) spelling out its ideas through bolded subtitles as if it were some deep psychological insight.

For all the supposed ambition and its commitment to form, it’s hard to buy the film’s surrealist flourishes when everything feels so familiarly constructed, from the verse-hopping mechanics down to the googly eyes. And I hate to make this comparison, but this sort of all-out maximalism works better in the hands of someone like Richard Kelly, who, in Southland Tales leaves it to the audience to piece together the insane bombardment of phenomena to ourselves. Take a shot every time you hear something in the vein of “statistical anomaly” used by a character here to explain an action—okay you may not be shitfaced, you’d have like… 3, maybe 4 shots, but that’s 3 or 4 too many. Again, talented surrealists like Obayashi or Bunuel know to keep us scratching our heads in wonderment, the Daniels don’t. The somewhat less talented, like Kaufman, would succumb to their aesthetic insecurities leading them to overexplain things (see: Synecdoche, New York) but at least there’s something interesting there underpinning everything, which isn’t something I can really say for EEAAO. It even feels like the film knows this and tries  to make up for it by padding its runtime—which I really started to feel around the halfway mark—by repeatedly introducing additional complications to feign complexity as it approaches a resolution. But in a 'universe' where practically anything goes, the stakes are predictably nil, and I'm just left waiting for the conclusion I knew was coming after seeing the first 20 minutes. 

It was fun to see the influences this seems to wear on its sleeve, but after the credits rolled and I saw the names responsible for producing this, the cynic in me couldn’t help but feel like they were ultimately typically Marvel references repurposed to suit the arthouse crowd who can point and say—like Captain America—that they “understood that [Wong Kar-wai] reference”. Which is fitting for what very well could be a Marvel movie for the A24 audience.

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