“Every rejection, every disappointment, has led you here. To this moment. Don’t let anything distract you from it.”
The family laundry business is no longer profitable in Everything Everywhere All At Once. The Wongs live upstairs while the patrons too infrequently flow through below, leading to less quarters and less business. Bills add up. Taxes aren’t paid. The matriarch Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh) tries to write off receipts totally unrelated to work. Deidre Beaubeirdre (Jamie Lee Curtis) sniffs out the fraud. It’s a sad, slow, solemn start. We wish that things could be better for them, and a turn is finally made as the tonal tides slowly shift. Evelyn is about to embark on a cosmic journey; maybe we will all get lost along the way. Or perhaps not, because I still can’t make sense of most of this picture. It’s as heartfelt as it is confounding.
Evelyn leans on her husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan), a soft and caring man who’s on the verge of breaking bad news; he can only be the puppet in the marriage for so long and divorce papers are drawn. And while I never saw James Hong’s patriarchal Gong Gong part as anything more than an alarm for what might be inevitable, the blueprint was still set. These types of relationships can and do exist. As does the terrorizing and globetrotting Jobu Tupaki. She wants to watch the world burn, for every universe to feel her pain, and to use the everything bagel as a prime example of what can be done vs. what should be done. There’s a massive difference between the two, and it’s one Evelyn learns through scattered actions both physical and temporal.
I would be hard pressed to clearly articulate or explain the rules of the many universes haphazardly littered throughout EEAAO, and I’m not sure the filmmakers would be able to define them either (I can’t imagine they’d be able to without giggling at the very least.) The further and the weirder the film goes and gets, the less I actually liked it, mostly because I felt that the souls of these characters played second fiddle to the visual creativity of the directors. EEAAO is an expertly edited film, and certain cuts highlight how exact the script needed to be with all of the flips and shove-its and eventual 360 ollies. It’s a visionary endeavor at times, but the heart comes second. Only at the end does it ring as real and true. Jobu is her Joy (Stephanie Hsu). Evelyn travels through the cosmos trying to connect and to reconcile. But that’s not as important as hot dog hands.
It took me three separate evenings to make my way through EEAAO. I don’t think it’s a very funny picture, and the juvenile humor throughout doesn’t bridge the sadness or the regret as much as I think it imagines it does. The Daniels are talented filmmakers, but I could do with more subtlety for their anal obsessions, as the outrageous rear end insertions here and the vehicular nature of the vacuous and dull Swiss Army Man adds less than one might imagine. The film is 20 minutes too long, makes about as much sense as Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, and takes too many roundabouts to fianlly arrive at such an easy destination. Michelle Yeoh is good but not great, Ke Huy Quan is engrossing in his return to the screen, and Stephanie Hsu is sublime in exuding her generational pain and sorrow. I honestly don’t understand how this is the Oscar frontrunner in any category outside of editing.
“Just a lifetime of fractured memories.”
Rating: 3 out of 5