EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE, the newest film released by the culturally adored A24, is currently the highest rated film of all time on Letterboxd, the popular social media platform made up of cinephile's who log, rate and review films.
I watched the trailer a couple months back and while it conveyed a sense of high energy and creativity, I thought the film looked messy and vapid and so, made no pursuit of going to see it on my own dime. That changed this week after being bombarded with a constant influx of word of mouth praise that reached such a heightened decibel level that it become hard not to give in and go see it, just to see what all the fuss was about. And so I bought my ticket, settled into a reclining seat and tried to wipe preconceived notions from my memory, with an openness to letting this film win me over, like it has so many.
The film focuses on Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh), the matriarch of a Chinese immigrant family who runs a Laundromat with her husband Waymond. Evelyn is consumed with tax problems, a divorce and the gripings of her lesbian daughter named Joy. Joy has a semi-fractured relationship with her mother because of her family's general inability to understand and accept her lifestyle. While the family struggles to reconcile, they are simultaneously fending off an impending IRS audit led by a villainous and very entertaining, albeit goofy, Jamie Lee Curtis.
While the first act attempts to make us sympathize with Evelyn and her family, It doesn't take the time necessary for us to really feel for the characters and their dilemmas and instead rushes right to the fantastical, assuming the profundity attempted later will win us over by melting our hearts and blowing our minds with it's technical aspects and special effects. I was surprised by the stereotypical route the filmmakers took in creating who Evelyn was. It's possible that it was deliberate so that once the multiverse element enters, it's more of a surprising turn, but I felt several attempts to generate audience laughter through her accent and way of speech inappropriate and done at the expense of taking her character seriously. If the filmmakers intended to make a female and immigrant empowering story, creating scenes for the audience to laugh at how she speaks and acts is probably not helpful.
You can see very clearly the influence from and the love for THE MATRIX (1999) throughout.
Unlike that sci-fi classic, the "rules of the game" are never explained well, making for a confusing narrative with sharp pivots in and out of completely arbitrary elements of quirkiness, where it's hard not to picture the writer/directors giggling to themselves smugly as they concocted some of the details of the sequences.
While I admire the filmmakers ambitions and originality in concept, the execution is a scattershot overkill and thirty minutes in I had already succumbed to a splitting headache and wanted out, knowing that the established style, pacing and content would continue on consistently for another two hours.
It will only be a matter of time before EVERYTHING climbs its way to the top of iMDB's Top 250 list. But not unlike the Academy Awards, the places I once considered a measure of a films merit have little to no meaning to me anymore in a world where the general film going public has lost a sense of good taste with no discernment for authentic emotional and philosophical depth. I guess it's hard when pretty cinematography, fancy editing and quirky predicaments take center stage.