This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
esther’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
i walked in expecting to loathe this, given i regard swiss army man as one of the worst films of the last decade. but while that film's obnoxiousness and moronic attempts at pathos were more or less immediately obvious, i was really surprised to find the prologue of everything everywhere all at once winning me over. that goodwill evaporated gradually over the course of the next hour, and by the final 90 minutes i was wondering how i'd been tricked so easily. i guess it comes down to the fact that the reasons i expected to hate this movie are a far cry from the reasons i ended up, if not quite hating, at least strongly disliking it.
i really expected this to be annoyingly and exhaustingly hyperactive, a collection of quirky and wacky imagery in search of anything to say. the movie is exhausting for sure, but it's mostly because of how brutally long it is and how mercilessly it turns every throwaway gag into an extended emotional catharsis. i thought a lot of those gags were good! and then the film spends a good five minutes each of its ridiculously bloated finale making sure that every stupid joke gets wrapped up with a neat little bow. it's a particularly modern screenwriting disease, where even attempts at surrealism are forced into a tidy three-act structure. by the time evelyn was making up with her daughter (a moment that frustrated me because queer daughter/mother stuff is very esther-pitched so it SHOULD have hit me hard) i just didn't care anymore, because it came at the end of an interminably long sequence of evelyn making up with every other major and minor character, a series of conversations so punishingly rote you could almost call it parody.
to go a little longer on it, the daughter stuff really bugged me because it's just so offensively half-baked. she gets a line to evelyn about "the pain of having you as a mother" but the film really glides right over the idea that an alternate evelyn was so abusive to her daughter that she induced a reality-destroying mental breakdown. i get that the film is from evelyn's perspective and i did appreciate that even the main one is depicted as kind of a shitty narcissist but idk, seems sloppy to make the pain a mother inflicts on her lesbian daughter the crux of your film while sweeping it under the rug so desperately! if it turns out neither of the daniels are even gay i'll be madder.
people called this movie original, but i'm not seeing it. i think the recent moderate cultural obsession with multiverse movies comes about because they're a neat metaphor for pastiche, and everything these days is pastiche. what good is a multiverse if it doesn't all cross over and come together, after all? this film is pretty clear about the stuff it's ripping from (the score quotes the main theme from the matrix at one point, leading me to the infuriating revelation that the daniels are "the only good matrix movie is the first one" people) but that doesn't make it any less dull to see the parade of references play out. there is some small novelty in seeing what will probably be the only film ever to reference both in the mood for love and ratatouille, but that only can take you so far.
i really only saw this at all because i saw that it was the most popular movie on this website ever, and i heard from several friends who found it moving, and i thought well damn maybe there's SOMETHING here. if there was i didn't see it. this thing had completely vanished from my memory by the time i got home from the theater. what enjoyable moments there are are completely drowned out by the long, long, long, long ending. it's better than swiss army man. maybe by their next film the daniels will have upgraded to "fine". they certainly showed flashes of mediocrity here.