Rated R, which is on me. Okay, that doesn't make a ton of sense. It's on me because I invited people to watch this movie with me (and then without me). And honestly, if I could snip two minutes of inappropriate scenes, this could be a solid PG-13. There's language and violence, sure. But there is also a scene with sex toys that are pretty grotesque. There's also a scene where people try shoving objects into uncomfortable places. There are also themes of suicide. But besides that, you know, not bad. R.
DIRECTORS: Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (as Daniels)
What is wrong with me? Part of me has no idea. The other part is being brutally honest and acknowledging that I know exactly what stops me from writing. I'm full-on scolding my lazy writing vibes lately. I want to write a book next year and this procrastination thing I have going on right now isn't exactly encouraging. But I know that it is video games that are giving me the dopamine rushes that are normally accompanied with accomplishment. I also know that I'm running out of time to finish the game and I'm super close to getting it done. But that's a terrible excuse. After all, I've been dying to see Everything Everywhere All at Once since I saw the first trailer, so why didn't I write about it immediately after seeing it? I would like to stress that I have once again lost readership because I can't maintain consistency. Okay, enough self-flaggelation.
There was a time in my life not that long ago where the concept of a multiverse was lost on people. I firmly remember there was a time when I started dating my wife where I full out nerded out explaining what a multiverse was. It wasn't hard. I mean, my wife and I grew up in a time when Sliders was on TV. But now everyone won't shut up about the multiverse. I don't deny that there's a part of me that hates this. It always seemed like something that was mine. I know that I shouldn't be encouraging gatekeeping, but it was a multiverse. I mean, I love me some Marvel movies and I'm one of the greatest advocates for the current slate of Marvel movies, but this whole multiverse well that every piece of genre storytelling is going to is getting a little bit stale. I don't necessarily have the oohs-and-ahhs anymore about the twists of a multiverse. But I do like this. (I like the other things too, but you know where I'm going with this hopefully.)
I like this because if the multiverse was really a thing, it wouldn't be a thing that was only attached to superheroes. There's this concept in the DC Universe (until they renamed it the omniverse, which I don't really understand) that there are 52 separate DC universes. I know that they've strayed from those rigid 52 stories, but the concept is there. Marvel numbers their universes too, but those numbers go higher. I mean, they don't go astronomically high, but they go somewhere. But Everything Everywhere goes to the same place that Sliders goes: every decision made is a separate universe. Doctor Who tried it with "Turn Left", but I like the idea that multiverse stories should surround an everyman / everywoman character.
There is something fantastically bleak about this notion. I don't think Daniels (I'm going to use their preferred listing for the sake of brevity) was necessarily thinking about this, despite how clearly thought out this was. If every universe was based on a choice, either large or small, we are creatures who fundamentally have no free will. Evelyn leads the saddest of the existences not because of choices that she made, but because she was the result of monkeys trying to write Hamlet. At the beginning of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, they keep tossing a coin that lands on its head. No matter what they do, it always lands on its head. While it is tragic that Evelyn's life is the equivalent of the coin that always lands wrong, the more depressing thing is that she can't help but make the wrong choice. There has to be someone who always gets it wrong. Heck, all of us apparently have a universe where we get it all wrong.
To a certain extent, the film is a commentary on free will. Because I can exercise free will, I'm going to retract a statement and now think that Daniels knew what they were doing with that thread. But I want to talk about the notion of being small. This movie goes to places that few other movies dare to tread. I honestly see so much in common with my possibly favorite movie, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. They are both mystical realism / sci-fi / genre films that really go as hard as they can into this realm of the absurd, yet are paradoxically powerfully small films. With Eternal Sunshine, Joel is just getting over a breakup. Yet, from his perspective, he's doing anything to save the woman that he loves. The genre is just there to tell the story of the end of a relationship. Evelyn is literally trying to save the multiverse from collapsing while saving her daughter from committing suicide. Yet, the genre stuff is just there to develop relationships between Evelyn and Joy and Eveyln and Waymond. That final act, as bananas as everything gets, is at its core about families learning to say "I'm sorry" and to give each other chances that maybe they don't deserve. For all of its kung fu action and bizarro cutaways, it comes down to people talking to each other. I'm now flashing to the Pixar short "Bao", which I still have issues with. It's this really weird movie where a bao bun becomes human and the mother eats him so he can't run away and grow up. But all of that bizarre stuff we can chalk up to potentially a metaphor for family.
And I do completely think that Evelyn was recruited by another version of Waymond. I don't think it was a metaphor. But since essays are about controversy, I can actually lie to myself that most of the movie isn't about parallel universes. Maybe we're seeing what people see in a musical. The reality of what is going on is never shown to us because we get all of the pizzazz of fighting and parallel worlds while in reality, Evelyn is simply having a hard time holding her life together in the shadow of a divorce and a daughter who may be suicidal. That might be why the movie gets so out there at times. There's something so weird about these other realities, like the one shaped by hot dog fingers or by Raccacoonie, that it seems like someone who is making it up on the fly. It's about the feelings of knowing that you may have missed out of something. I'm going to play a hypothetical because I have been talking about Wong Kar-Wai too much. Imagine thinking that you could have been the world's greatest celebrity if you just didn't marry a loser like Waymond. (For the record, I don't think that Waymond is a loser and I love Waymond so much.) I don't know where I would be if I didn't make the choices that I did, but some of the imagined scenarios show me pretty happy. But these aren't moments of reality. It's why Daniels filmed that universe like In the Mood for Love. It's not reality. It's something very different.
I really hope I end up revisiting this one a whole bunch of times. I desperately wanted my wife to like it. I felt too vulnerable and raw about subjecting someone else to a movie that requires a heck of an investment. But this movie delivers. There were times that I thought that the movie may have been trying too much or luxuriated in its own confusion, but that's what I'd prefer over a movie that played it safe all of the time.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.