Raphael Georg Klopper’s review published on Letterboxd:
I don’t know if anyone is going to be disappointed for me saying this but…for the truck load of buzz around this one, I was expecting something even more insane and insulting to arouse the divisive opinions!
That lead to the endless debating if the movie is the most ludicrous original masterpiece of the last century that gives meaning to endless creative imagination when directors have the freedom and the will to pull something unique… or just the bank commercial quality I’ve seen its detractors throwing it at, claiming it nothing but a TikTok reels or Youtube montage inspirational discourse ephemerality of life with a Tumblr teen mentality.
As my stance go, I definitely enjoyed what I got here, if not in complete awe love as most people. Reactions of which I can gather are out of the factor that Everything Everywhere All at Once is pretty much the better version of your standard popcorn flick, having actual imagination, heart, fully imagined concepts and planned out stakes.
Coming with the luck of coming together with the oldest Hollywood tendency of having a very similar movie near its release, so what Doctor Strange: In the Multiverse of Madness lacked of Multiverse travels, this movie compensates with spades. Diving in the concept head on, exploring its multifaceted possibilities with the nerve to be wacky and facetious.
Unashamedly blending Looney Tunes anarchic humor; the multiversal journey gets handled with a Matrix-esq dynamic with colliding different realities, simulacra, videogame levels etc. made through mental connection – and gaining abilities through self-inflicting shenanigan; having a Indian Bollywood oddball over the topness that meets well with its martial arts that play like a violent musical scenes; plus shoving a entire Wong Kar-Wai section, with the whole set of blurred fast-tracked backgrounds, beautiful people talking philosophical dialogue like they were the sole hottest people on the planet drenched in melancholia and wet surroundings;
And being a sci-fi action that works as much as high-tech tools as serves multiple allegorical meanings in what it wants to discuss about a post-Internet reality, where the multiverse here basically an Online travelogue, walking through multiple windows at the same time, one click of option away, discovering a little bit of everything, listening and learning through a headset, and living trapped and stuck in the infinity of knowledge that soon becomes artificial, and losing the vulnerability of what is palpable and what is actually felt.
Which also helps to bring this Charlie Kaufman’s trace lost in its own cacophony of existential meanings and blurred realities melting together in one existential modernistic fantasy that’s every bit as melancholically sad and sincere about its dark intimacies as the great writer always is.
And I don’t know if its James Hong’s phenomenal presence here that’s making me say this, but at times this felt like a ‘Carpenter movie with a budget’, with a lot of Big Trouble in Little China feels – with a similar knack of blending weird and relentlessly inventive fantasy adventure, some horror tidy bits and great action. All taking place in one location setting that’s taken to stratospheric concept scale, there a whole dark magic underworld, and here the entire multiverse.
If the Chinatown in Carpenter movie was illustrating Asian-American culture strongly as any Hollywood would imagine that it existed, a sole alien world with endless possibilities, the IRS building here is both taking advantage of a small budgetary location and further commenting on the immigrant condition surrounded by a constant tension of a bureaucratic nightmare that makes the characters question your sole existence.
Though of course being more lenient towards character and drama, by basing all its relentless lunacy under a cohesive family story that’s going ambitiously trying to discuss intergenerational conflict, parental tension, an emotional conglomerate of resentments, regrets and missed opportunities between fathers and sons, a married couple, an own individual doubt about its own life.
And the movie knows how to pause its relentless insanity to focus on these moments with thoughtful eye and genuine emotions. All the while being soaked in ideas and rules and multi-layered concepts, yet incredibly simple to understand and get caught up in its dynamic and precise unraveling. But… the style and concept has a hard time really selling it to me.
The Daniels duo are clearly making all the efforts in destabilizing common sense in their direction here, changing frame format and wanting to have an eschatological effect by throwing everything everywhere all at once at your face and shock with cartoon exaggeration.
But all the tweaks and stylistically mannerisms sound random and fetishistic, shoving a bunch of ludicrous elements that they think it will refresh and make the scenes more than they really are – the dildo and the ‘ass-trophy’ scenes, for example, come off completely like exaggerated pushes to sound edgy and goofy. Hell, even Daniel Radcliffe's farts in Swiss Army Man had more balance and meaning! Even the tear jerking moments that often interrupt the narrative here seem calculated to hit and lack a bit of a natural progression to them.
Though while the first half wasn’t really grabbing me, with too much loose indulgence, losing control of its own chaos with endless concept expository that after a while ceases to be intriguing and turns into a necessary crutch to move the plot’s logic along. BUT THEN, after a certain character begins a very emotional monologue, the movie picks up considerably with Ke Huy Quan single handedly ELEVATING the movie to greatness.
Making the last 20 minutes really the sole selling point that made this movie so beloved and I felt it. Where funny, weird and sweet blend together and share entire sequences and scenes together with genuine effect, and taking a Pixar climax levels (and no I’m not talking about the Raccacoonie bit, that did had me laughing hard). But that dark bagel portal thingy semblance of balance between chaos and peace yin and yang etc, it could’ve be taken straight out of Inside Out or Soul, along with its tearjerker realizations about the value of life (the Daniels do love their Pixar movies).
And where poses a very clear questioning in what it has to say, especially about how on the noose its discussions of existentialism vs nihilism probably made a few ones roll their eyes off. Well, subtlety is definitely not a component of this flick. However, I firmly enjoy how it avoids the easy cynical way out of embracing the chaos of nothingness senseless as some clever meta-realization of no-rules allowed both in film and in a meaningless existence as some empty metaphor of individual freedom trying, plus trying to elevate factors of gender or ethnicity as sings of moral greatness as any Disney blockbuster today tends to do; rather takes a very human positive send off.
By arguing that: you can either choose to traverse towards the transcendental beyond, accept the nihilism of existence that we are nothing more than cosmic dust from billions of nothingness, existing in a round and round cycle, like a bagel, circling towards obliteration of overwhelming emptiness… and accept inner death of carrying – depression, suicide, pure believe in the nihilistic philosophy of life, you name it!
Or choose to stay in the simple banal, try to see meaning and fulfillment in the lives we live, the people that we love, where all of our faults and shortcomings should be treasured instead of repent because those are the same ones that gives our individual any unique meaning.
And a side pleasing factor: it NEVER becomes about race, gender, ethnicity, at least not as major narrative factors! This is a movie covered in love towards everyone and its primal focus is on a family bonding, meeting their due and settling their differences with heartwarming pay offs that feel completely universal in what it has to say and it thoroughly accomplishes! With loads of heart, being poignant and sincere about what it believes and what’s saying, sold especially through the high level performances of this so well spent and used cast.
Michelle Yeoh….what’s there to say?! Stupendous, superb, all the possible praise your long shoulders of talent are capable of carrying and FINALLY an Hollywood movie is making proper use of her. The sweetness, the magnetic charm, the vulnerability, the sheer badassery, the comic and melancholy of the character; she delivers in all, she does not disappoint in none, a full usage of her star power in years!
And oh my god, never in my entire life did I think I'd see Temple of Doom's little Short Round again in a movie, looking ridiculously like Jackie Chan, fighting like Jackie Chan, WITH A FANNY PAC, and still with his high-pitched naive voice and managing to melt your heart with it – just that was enough to made me deeply happy.
And the biggest surprise of the movie Stephanie Hsu that steals the scene with loads of charisma and a multifaceted authenticity that’s scaringly dominating how she can transverse from being a total bitch to a regular teen daughter, make you laugh and make you tear up just as easily. Plus as a bonus you have Jamie Lee Curtis just getting on the goofball nature of the flick with such shameless gusto!
Meaning is scary, and seeing the infinite void will only leave us miserable, so the way out to escape from suffering its to treasure life and “being kind”. Not a clichéd positivity naiveté as some could’ve easily claim about that beautiful monologue, it’s rather about carrying empathy and hope as the real weapons to survive and to gain victory in finding MEANING!
Reality and multiverses doesn’t make any sense, we have to create our own meanings around everything, everywhere, around us at our constant present as we carry them all at once in our lives! It may not be the most immaculate creation, but fun, creative, honest and covered with real felt passion present in its creation? That’s undeniable!