Everything Everywhere All at Once

Everything Everywhere All at Once

Given our culture's current obsession with multiverses, it's unsurprising that yet another film should come around, exploring alternate dimensions and timelines. While the recent wave of universe-hopping action has so far mostly been relegated to comic book fare like the fantastic Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and the wildly popular adult animated sci-fi comedy series Rick and Morty, it was only a matter of time until this very exploitable concept would find its way into other media as well. Enter Everything Everywhere All at Once. Directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (or "Daniels", as they're known collectively), the film tells the story of a Chinese-American woman (Michelle Yeoh) whose laundromat, which she owns with her husband (Ke Huy Quan), is being audited by the IRS. While she struggles with tax problems, a failing business, a crumbling marriage and an awkward and icy relationship with her daughter (Stephanie Hsu), the woman, Evelyn, learns of the existence of parallel universes which she must soon navigate in order to save them all from destruction by an evil entity.

Outside of Spider-Man: No Way Home it's hard to think of a film that better exemplifies the cultural dead-end of our time than Everything Everywhere. While No Way Home was inarguably a corporate product, the logical conclusion of decades of focus groups, test screenings and market research, Everything Everywhere has been heralded as the triumphant return of original stories to the silver screen, a masterpiece, a cinematic landmark and even, ridiculously, as an MCU killer. Nothing could be further from the truth since even with the outward appearance of authenticity and originality (it is distributed by indie-darling A24 after all), Daniels' latest work is painfully emblematic of the intellectually and creatively barren zeitgeist.

Kwan and Scheinert, like they did with the dreadful Swiss Army Man, are experts at crafting loud but hollow images which seem designed for maximum GIF-ability but amount to little more than desperate attempts at the most obnoxious flavors of millennial internet humor. With Everything Everywhere the directors use the well-worn sci-fi conceit of inter-universal travel, to add to that a generous heap of pandering pastiche and trendy pop nihilism. Excruciating. For all the bells and whistles of extravagant fantasy, there is ultimately little here to engage with, which makes some of the exaggerated praise even more puzzling. The numerous moments of sophomoric philosophizing, seemingly earnest attempts at imbuing the film with some sense of importance or emotional resonance, fall completely flat and it's hard to imagine them doing much to engage anyone who doesn't get their worldview from Reddit. Often highlighted by critics, there's a scene where two characters find themselves as immobile rocks and spout platitudes like "We're all stupid! Small, stupid humans. It's like our whole deal" and "Who knows what great new discovery is coming next to make us feel like even smaller pieces of shit." This apparently passes as profound in the minds of our intelligentsia. Not every film or TV show needs to be a complex philosophical treatise but after more than a decade of being the millennial generation's cultural default, this brand of sentimental scientism has more than outstayed its welcome. The fact that "I Fucking Love Science"-esque pseudo-philosophy still has this much traction and can somehow be touted as novel and deep is disheartening.

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