“Complete knowledge” is actually one of the central topics that I plan to base my filmmaking career on: the idea that the more you know (or the greater your awareness) the more insensitive you become to the valued things that reside in humanity. I appreciate how The Daniels have covered it all here in their sophomore debut: both the nihilism and the optimism in it. The bravery that the two directors flaunt by ambitiously exhibiting these connected thoughts have graciously inspired me to be a little more comfortable with expressing my own takes on the subject matter in the future. Therefore, a toast to this fun action comedy that also gives you an existential crisis!
Everything Everywhere All at Once is a story where you can see almost exactly where it’s heading and ending in terms of character arcs, yet not a whole lot as to how they’ll be expressed. Actually, make that a “pretty much not at all” with a cautious asterisk next to it when recollecting its in-and-out habits. From its single location primary that’s however adequately networked into dozens of flashbacks / forwards or multiverse settings, and to its entire second half being literally dedicated as THEE climax — though, partially to a lethargic fault where the last-minute, desperate pathos adds of brain-spieling messages across get easier and easier overtime to pick out and query over given how slowed down our glances at them become —, this reconstructive blockbuster is evidently f**king nuts.
In all sincerity, this works its absurdism and uniqueness best when applying it for laugh-out-loud comedy and headache-accumulating philosophical discussions on the glorifications and washouts of human desires — that everything-bagel analogy, wow! — but personally not as much in regards to being a mother and daughter or wife and husband life circumstance acceptance journey despite that seemingly being what the core yearns to manifest; the mother to family relationships are particularly limited in literal context to a point where we are left to just assume what the extent of them could be (for “artistic” merit or not depending on who you are) based on tiger-parent, dorky-dad, and rebel-child stereotypes and the one-note incidents that have negatively defined or impacted them, and even still so despite its many creatively spectacled trials of emphasis that try to decrepit them throughout. Because of something this over-stimulative from having countless evolutionary stages, so much ends up feeling forced to either initiate or conclude briefly and repeatedly, therefore often foreseeably too, as if this were just a more adrenaline-spurted take two (to one million?) on Pixar’s Turning Red. It’s essentially a relatively conventional skeleton of a tale on overcoming and rectification that’s hammered to death with tastefully nuanced and aggressive theoretical greeds and insecurities within an allegorical multiverse to make it stand out especially from the parroting Hollywood crowd — although, this bipolar hammering should be MUCH preferred over the latter of it not existing at all in the first place akin to most interchangeable movies that idealize human decisions and revelations instead of vulnerably counterbalancing them with their relatable narcissistic drawbacks.
Basically, what I’m trying to say is this complex methodology to connect us to the characters’ growths is an illusion that I appreciated and, for the most part, thought worked enough, yet is an illusion that doesn’t entirely fool us as much as I think it could’ve, especially in regards to expanding on its evident generalization of the Chinese American immigrant experience. The Daniels bite off a little more than they can chew, but by God is there so much to chew to really get that upset at them for it. If anything, for what they did do, that alone is already lightyears more commendable than what you could say about a majority of filmmaking efforts today.
In hindsight, what ends up divulging the impressiveness of Everything Everywhere All at Once the most is really its surface technicalities: the insanely hyper-specific camerawork and blocking, intricately jumbo-footage-assembled match-cut editing, and unusual variety of special effect styles and pop culture references; the sheer amount of effort here is something impossible to not find admiration in even if they don’t all perfectly translate the story’s desired emotional resonance, which howbeit, again, feels inevitable given something that crams this much content into its runtime. And, like I mentioned before, the amalgamation between comedy and action here is just sublime: the duo truly take the rules of their universe to each’s fullest, absurdist potential in the funniest, slap-stickiest, and blissfully immature-ist (like that attempted spelling) possible ways, never holding an ounce of expression back. If this movie proved anything, it’s that The Daniels are worthy of becoming the hard-working modern-day Chaplins and Wachowskis for this meme-led generation.
Also, is it just me or does anyone else find The Daniels and Lord & Miller to be quite similar filmmakers? It’s hard to explain, but this movie gave me serious Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009) / The LEGO Movie (2014) vibes. Either way, a collaboration between the four of them sounds orgasmic.
“Everything Everywhere All at Once” is now playing in select theaters.