After learning that Everything Everywhere All at Once got eleven Oscar nominations, I wanted to see this movie.
Through the good graces of Apple TV, I found that I could watch it at no cost on the Showtime App, courtesy of our DirecTV subscription that includes Showtime.
After spending 132 minutes watching the movie over a span of several days and finishing it tonight, that was exactly how much the movie was worth to me. Nothing. Or at least, very little.
Though there were brief periods at the beginning and end of Everything where I felt connected to the characters and interested in the plot, I felt like turning off the TV numerous times while suffering through what I"m pretty sure was the least enjoyable Best Picture nominee I've ever seen.
A review in The New Yorker describes how I felt about the movie, albeit in much clearer and more sophisticated language. (Its subtitle is "There's no there there."
The movie world is awash in fantasy, and that’s a problem, because fantasy is the riskiest genre. There’s no middle ground with fantasy because there’s no ground at all. Even a middling work of realism inevitably rests on experience, observation, and knowledge, but a mediocre fantasy is a transparent emptiness, a contrivance of parts that aren’t held together by the atmosphere of social life.
It’s the triple axel of cinema: when successful, fantasies are glorious, seemingly expanding the very nature of experience by way of speculative imagination. Some of the best movies of recent years—“The Future,” “Us,” and “The French Dispatch”—are fantasies, and their artistic success is doubled by their very resistance to the corporatization of fantasy in the overproduction and overmanagement of superhero franchises.
But a failed fantasy is a wipeout, and that’s the simplest and clearest way to describe “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” a new film (opening Friday) by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (a duo called Daniels). Were it not for the appealing and charismatic presence of its cast, it would leave nothing but a vapor puff that disperses when the lights go on.
Couldn't agree more.
For most of the film, there's a lot of cheesy Kung Fu'ish fighting scenes, interspersed with shots of people screaming loudly. The multiverse plot, such as it is, was confusing to follow, in part because I like to use subtitles, but when I asked Siri to turn on subtitles, the response was that they're already on.
Which was true as regards the subtitles shown when Chinese was being spoken. But my problem was understanding the main characters when they spoke in English about what was going on in the fantasy world of the multiverse.
Of course, since it didn't take me long to realize that I really didn't care what the movie was all about, after a while the fact that the "failed fantasy" of Everywhere failed to interest me fit with the fact that I never got all that interested in the movie's realistic scenes either.
That said, I started off enjoying the portrait of a Chinese-American family trying to manage a laundromat while dealing with their intergenerational problems. But once the movie veered off into multiverse fantasies that seemed way too confusing to me, I realized how Everywhere could have been a better film with just a bit of fantasy and a much larger dose of realism.
A review in The Guardian says it well. (It also has a good subtitle: nothing nowhere over a long period of time.
This hipster hypefest is an adventure in alternative existences and multiverse realities from writer-directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert – the “Daniels” – who in 2016 gave us the Jonzeian comedy Swiss Army Man.
Everything Everywhere All at Once has been critically swooned over in the US and pretty much everywhere else, so it’s disconcerting to find it frantically hyperactive and self-admiring and yet strangely laborious, dull and overdetermined, never letting up for a single second to let us care about, or indeed believe in, any of its characters.
There are some nice gags and sprightly Kubrickian touches, and one genuinely shocking scene when Evelyn fat-shames her daughter – an authentically upsetting moment of family dysfunction that seems to come from another film, one in a parallel universe.
But this mad succession of consequence-free events, trains of activity which get cancelled by a switch to another parallel world, means that nothing is actually at stake, and the film becomes a formless splurge of Nothing Nowhere Over a Long Period of Time. Again, this film is much admired and arrives adorned with saucer-eyed critical notices … I wish I liked it more.