This Movie Rocks (and other worlds)

I have been incredibly remiss here, for I saw Everything, Everywhere, All At Once back when it was released in theatres (and then I bought a copy a few weeks ago), and I haven’t written about it yet.  Why remiss you ask?  Because, right up front, EEAAO is an amazing film.

Spoilers ahead!

Trying to describe what EEAAO is about is like trying to describe a kaleidoscope.  Both in terms of what’s happening on screen – for there is a lot! – and also in terms of the many layers that roll and interact and collide to, in the end, in full embracement of messiness, create something beautiful.  The film is stylistic, inventive, intentful, introspective, exciting, funny, moving, well paced, well told, and satisfying.  On the surface it feels zany sci-fi action, and… indeed, there is plenty of zaniness, plenty of sci-fi bits, and plenty oh plenty of action!  But it’s rarely ever zaniness, or action, or sci-fi mumbo without a purpose.  The film is continually using all aspects of the narrative to slowly pull the pieces of the true story and the themes all together.  It’s superbly well crafted.

And it is superbly well acted.  With so many moving parts and with so many layers happening at once, the whole thing could easily collapse under its own weight if the actors were not able to ground us and guide us through it.  And the heart of the story, with the deep themes that resonate throughout, would’ve fallen flat if the actors couldn’t sell us what’s happening within their characters.  To which they all do, in spectacular fashion.  Which is even more amazing given how many different versions of each character many of them get to inhabit and bring to life.  Stellar acting all around.

Best of all, the film has a lot of heart and a wonderful philosophical core.  And you could watch the entire movie and just be moved by its heart.  It’s lovely and moving and invites us to step into connecting with those around us.  But delve beyond and there is some serious philosophical introspection happening, and it’s truly not just tacked on – even the instigator of the plot leads to this core.  Being present, meaning, the trap of identities, choice/agency, creation, and more… it’s great and powerful stuff.

  • It’s so frikken amazing to get to see Michelle Yeoh in a role where she can bust out to demonstrate her full acting range and, even more so, her amazing presence.
  • Likewise for Ke Huy Quan, who had quit acting for 20 years because they weren’t giving (good) roles to Asian-american actors!
  • And Stephanie Hsu, too, all of the main characters rocked it so hard, able to inhabit so many roles fully.
  • Plus Jamie Lee Curtis seems to be having the time of her life (while oh yes indeed delivering an amazing performance).
  • Compared to other recent multi-verse films, this one felt much more willing to go weird and wild with the concept (and thus it feels more inventive). While also ensuring this weird/wildness is more than just a backdrop and plays onto the main thrusts of the story.
  • Ok, I gotta double-harp on this and how inventive this whole thing is. And ambitious.  This is not “product” – this is swinging for the fences, done with lots of thought (and probably countless rewrites).  It’s a glorious example of what stories and movies can be!
  • And it’s an independent production!
  • And done on a 25 million dollar budget. Let that sink in for a minute.    With more depth, creativity, excitement, and storytelling aplomb compared to many of the 250M+ “blockbusters”.
  • It also looks amazing, with all the effects being done by a 5 person team. Now… most FX people in the industry are woefully underpaid and overworked, so I do hesitate to hold this up without some sort of caveat (we need to advocate that everyone is well paid for their work!)… and it is an example of what’s possible with people who have passion (which, BTW, is well helped along when you treat them well and don’t beat the passion out of them with bad oversight and terrible working and pay conditions) even if they don’t have unlimited resources.
  • LOVE.  RACCACCOONIE!  (granted, I like Rocket Raccoon and Ratatouille, so… best of both worlds?)
  • Bonus awesome:  they made movie posters for many of the sub-universes!  (Including Raccaccoonie!)
  • This is a movie that is having fun even as it creates its deeper connections.  (While the zaniness might make it seem obvious, there are screwball movies and screwball parts of other movies that still don’t feel like they’re having fun.)
  • I will admit that, even as a lover of absurdism humour, there were a few moments during my first viewing where it reached a bit too far for me, feeling a bit like a joke for joke’s sake. But it didn’t detract.
  • I also think the bits where we follow Alpha Waymond and companions in the Alphaverse could have been trimmed or perhaps excised entirely. Most of what happens with them could be well enough conveyed without showing their “reality”.  Again, it’s a minor thing, but something about that focus/time spent that seemed to come to naught stood out to me during my first viewing.
  • The scene with the rocks just killed me (in a good way). Especially with the on-screen text for dialogue.  And it’s so brilliant on so many levels.  It is a moment of quiet in the midst of the previous chaos.  It illustrates where everyone is.  It illustrates where the theme is.  And it’s a major inflection point for the whole movie – the crux and reframing of Joy/Jobu and letting on exactly what is actually going on.
  • And then, it doubles down, with the simple addition of the googly eyes to create life/connection/meaning where none existed, tying into the transformation to come. So brilliant.
  • As is Evelyn “fighting” everyone with kindness…
  • … Which comes after the amazing bit from Waymond, “This is how I fight.”
  • It’s wicked how most of the alternate universes come with their own filming flair, whether it be as simple as lighting and framing, or more all encompassing such as the “In the Mood for Love” effect with stockbroker Waymond.
  • Speaking of which… “In another life, I think I would have been happy just doing taxes and laundry with you.” Movie star Evelyn and stockbroker Waymond seem to be on top of the world… and yet they’re not.  Such a brilliant encapsulation here.
  • That moment when we get that Joy isn’t the typical destroy everything type villain (rising even above those that have a ‘good reason for it’) and is instead seeking her mom. Seeking that connection and guidance.
  • And then, later, when Evelyn gets it. And lets her go.  Yet also doesn’t.  And then acknowledges all that’s transpired and, above all, acknowledges Joy.

This film is all sorts of awesome.  There’s so much within.  It is a whipsaw ride that never lets go and yet also avoids knocking us numb.  It’s a wild ride that spans the universe while being a story that’s contained and is both deeply personal and universal.  It’s frenetic but the storytelling rings true.  And though I’ve used the word dozens of times already, I gotta use it one last time: Amazing.  I give EEAAO an excellent minus and heartily recommend it!

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