Skip to main content

I can’t be the worst. What about that hotdog one?

Everything Everywhere All at Once
(2022)

(SPOILERS) It would have been a merciful release, had the title card “The End”, flashing on screen a little before the ninety-minute mark, not been a false dawn. True, I would still have been unable to swab the bloody dildoes fight from my mind, but at least Everything Everywhere All at Once would have been short. Indeed, by the actual end I was put in mind of a line spoken by co-star James Wong in one of his most indelible roles: “Now this really pisses me off to no end”. Or to put it another way, Everything Everywhere All at Once rubbed me up the wrong which way quite a lot of most of the time.

I didn’t immediately realise this was from the Swiss Army Man writer-director duo Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (the “Daniels”), but when I did, the glossy abrasiveness of style and content fell into place. Everything Everywhere All at Once flourishes itself as a kind of frat-house Cloud Atlas, judiciously grafting a theme of emotional uplift onto its multiverse concept while going for gross broke with dildoes, butt plugs and bondage gear. The juvenile shock-sensibility hearkens to the lowest ebbs of comedic “titans” the Wayan Brothers (Scary Movie), Adam Sandler (You Don’t Mess with the Zohan) and Sacha Baron Cohen (Da Ali G Movie) – it’s also no surprise they’re fans of the aggressively unpleasant Rick and Morty – but fused to faux-expansive empathy and reconciliation, all set to swelling anthemic soundtrack drops and soaring, transcendent montages. Kevin Smith, Seth Rogen and Terence Malick perhaps shared a Skype consultation. It’s no surprise ADD auteur-wannabes the Russo brothers are producers, given their recent aberration Cherry.

Does exploration of a multiverse require almost two-and-a-half hours to get its point across? Sam Raimi didn’t think so, and his message was very nearly as trite as the one here. Which is, essentially, plugging the hole of whatever makes you sad with whatever makes you happy. The plot is sparked by the teen angst of Joy Wang, daughter of laundromat owner Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh) – I say teen, but Stephanie Hsu is 31. Nevertheless, the essential goth-chic misery thing of “Nothing matters” has a certain adolescent thrall; “I mean, say what you want about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it’s an ethos”.

Joy: If nothing matters then all the pain and guilt you feel for making nothing of your life goes away.

The Joy instigating matters is more accurately identified as Alpha Joy/Jobu Tupaki, from the verse-jumping Alpha Universe, who became disillusioned with existence as a result of the deceased Alpha Evelyn pushing her into verse-jumping to the extent that she experienced all universes at once and caught a severe case of the nihilistics. Oh, and because Kwan and Schweinert are so “ker-razee” and “whacky”, “I go bored one day and I put everything in a bagel”.

All this cosmic scurrying then, comes back to someone feeling “so ronery”, owing to the standard gamut of family trials and tribulations. Which means the solution is the rapprochement of the same; it turns out Jobu, despite giving off the vibe a kill-crazed mission to wipe out all Evelyns everywhere, was simply trying to connect: “I was looking for someone who can see what I see, feel what I feel”. And when Evelyn (“our” Evelyn, if you like) receives a dose of Jobu’s experience – her third, googly, eye opens – she too starts to get very negative. It’s only the positive embrace by “fam” – Evelyn’s husband Waymon, played by Je Huy Quan of Short Round fame, and also, ultimately, difficult dad Gong Gong (Hong) – that restores everything, so we “get back to how it’s supposed to be”. Evelyn duly taps everyone into whatever it is that makes them feel fulfilled (which, inevitably, tend to be ephemeral fixes, but there you go).

That said, the sentiments here don’t merit outright derision; they’re fair and valid, in their relative places. But there’s such an overblown, calculated cynicism to the whole deal, despite the best efforts of the actors involved, that I found Everything Everywhere All at Once mostly off-putting. Yeoh, who has been fine, varnished oak in a few things lately (absolutely dire in Star Trek: Discovery and not so great in Shang-Chi either, but likeable in Last Christmas), has been given a role(s) that allows her to shine, and she seizes the chance. The lead was originally conceived as male, it seems: “We were having trouble figuring out the casting for the father figure, and one of us started wondering what happens if we take Michelle’s character and flop it and she becomes the protagonist”. Yeah right, I’m sure it had absolutely nothing to do with securing financing per current Hollywood diktats.

Quan is the movie’s emotional centre, such that he can make a line like “The only thing I know is that we have to be kind. Please, be kind” ring earnest and true and not precipitate an instant diabetic coma. Jamie Lee Curtis is kind of terrifying as a frumpy auditor. Hong is always great. I can’t say I was overly impressed by Hsu, but hers isn’t a role(s) that offers much in the way of variation (from vaguely pissed to super pissed).

There’s no doubt Kwan and Schenert can put a sequence together, edit a montage, choreograph a fight, curate fine cuts for the soundtrack, but I wasn’t won over by their crude/heartfelt style in Swiss Army Man, and I’m no more enamoured of it here. Although, in its favour Everything Everywhere All at Once is Daniel Radcliffe and Paul Dano free, which puts it ahead on points. Frankly, though, the hotdogs instead of fingers, Raccoonie (Ratatouille, obviously, but following Swiss Army Man, there’s a human puppetry theme developing here), fights with jumping pads stuck in antagonists’ arses, the (yes, I’ll say it again) bloody rubber johnsons, and satisfying bondage guy’s peccadilloes confirmed my prior aversion. And that’s without the movie having an inverse appreciation of less is more, somehow believing that, if its message is extended past breaking point, it will be more effective.

A key philosophical treatise occurs when Evelyn and Joy, having jumped into the rock universe, debate the fact of “Small, stupid humans. It’s like our whole deal’. I was curious about this section. On the one hand, Everything Everywhere All at Once forwards the kind of shallow “fam” connection found in your typical Hollywood fare (F&F), along with a prefab lesson in progressive inclusivity (Joy has a girlfriend, whom Gong Gong must accept; in sausage-fingers world, Evelyn and Deirdre are in a relationship). On the other, this is an actual family, not your surrogate model Hollywood generally seems set on promoting, and everything about the movie is squarely rooted in the enduring importance of the generational connections between the same.

Rock Joy: For most of our history, we knew the Earth was the centre of the universe. We killed and tortured people for saying otherwise. That is, until we discovered that the Earth is actually revolving around the Sun, which is just one sun out of trillions of suns.

Additionally, the above dialogue would appear to validate the “We’re just meaningless, inconspicuous humans, we’re unimportant” that the NASA model of the universe is so keen on (plus, to think otherwise is what causes all the killing and maiming and the like, right?) On the other (hotdog-fingered) hand, Kwan and Scheinert have Joy explicitly stating that such thinking is designed break our sense of value and worth, and each new scientific “discovery” is essential coordinated “to make us feel like even smaller pieces of shit”. Could Waymond’s plea to “get back to how it’s supposed to be” relate to a timeline free from the hijacking by malign influences (in this case, Jobu Tupaki)?

So, by accident or design, I must give the Daniels that much credit. I wish I liked Everything Everywhere All at Once more, since Kwan and Scheinhert are evidently talented filmmakers (rather than simply capable copiers, like their producers the Russos). Unfortunately, they’re a little too gross for my “refined” tastes and also less than sophisticated in their gestures towards thematic depth. But I’m evidently in the minority, if we go by the movie’s RT score, the way it has blasted into IMDB’s Top 60, and a gross that puts in the global Top 20 for the year (on a very modest budget). I was going to say Everything Everywhere All at Once can also boast not being a sequel, but with the current cachet of the multiverse concept – the rise of which is inherently suspicious in itself – it might as well be.


Popular posts from this blog

This risotto is shmackin’, dude.

Stranger Things Season 4: Volume 1 (SPOILERS) I haven’t had cause, or the urge, to revisit earlier seasons of Stranger Things , but I’m fairly certain my (relatively) positive takes on the first two sequel seasons would adjust down somewhat if I did (a Soviet base under Hawkins? DUMB soft disclosure or not, it’s pretty dumb). In my Season Three review, I called the show “ Netflix’s best-packaged junk food. It knows not to outstay its welcome, doesn’t cause bloat and is disposable in mostly good ways ” I fairly certain the Duffer’s weren’t reading, but it’s as if they decided, as a rebuke, that bloat was the only way to go for Season Four. Hence episodes approaching (or exceeding) twice the standard length. So while the other points – that it wouldn’t stray from its cosy identity and seasons tend to merge in the memory – hold fast, you can feel the ambition of an expansive canvas faltering at the hurdle of Stranger Things ’ essential, curated, nostalgia-appeal inconsequentiality.

Haven’t you ever heard of the healing power of laughter?

Batman (1989) (SPOILERS) There’s Jaws , there’s Star Wars , and then there’s Batman in terms of defining the modern blockbuster. Jaws ’ success was so profound, it changed the way movies were made and marketed. Batman’s marketing was so profound, it changed the way tentpoles would be perceived: as cash cows. Disney tried to reproduce the effect the following year with Dick Tracy , to markedly less enthusiastic response. None of this places Batman in the company of Jaws as a classic movie sold well, far from it. It just so happened to hit the spot. As Tim Burton put it, it was “ more of a cultural phenomenon than a great movie ”. It’s difficult to disagree with his verdict that the finished product (for that is what it is) is “ mainly boring ”. Now, of course, the Burton bat has been usurped by the Nolan incarnation (and soon the Snyder). They have some things in common. Both take the character seriously and favour a sombre tone, which was much more of shock to the

Is this supposed to be me? It’s grotesque.

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (2022) (SPOILERS) I didn’t hold out much hope for The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent being more than moderately tolerable. Not so much because its relatively untested director and his co-writer are mostly known in the TV sphere (and not so much for anything anyone is raving about). Although, it has to be admitted, the finished movie flourishes a degree of digital flatness typical of small-screen productions (it’s fine, but nothing more). Rather, due to the already over-tapped meta-strain of celebs showing they’re good sports about themselves. When Spike Jonze did it with John Malkovich, it was weird and different. By the time we had JCVD , not so much. And both of them are pre-dated by Arnie in Last Action Hero (“ You brought me nothing but pain ” he is told by Jack Slater). Plus, it isn’t as if Tom Gormican and Kevin Etten have much in the way of an angle on Nic; the movie’s basically there to glorify “him”, give or take a few foibles, do

All the world will be your enemy, Prince with a Thousand Enemies.

Watership Down (1978) (SPOILERS) I only read Watership Down recently, despite having loved the film from the first, and I was immediately impressed with how faithful, albeit inevitably compacted, Martin Rosen’s adaptation is. It manages to translate the lyrical, mythic and metaphysical qualities of Richard Adams’ novel without succumbing to dumbing down or the urge to cater for a broader or younger audience. It may be true that parents are the ones who get most concerned over the more disturbing elements of the picture but, given the maturity of the content, it remains a surprise that, as with 2001: A Space Odyssey (which may on the face of it seem like an odd bedfellow), this doesn’t garner a PG certificate. As the makers noted, Watership Down is at least in part an Exodus story, but the biblical implications extend beyond Hazel merely leading his fluffle to the titular promised land. There is a prevalent spiritual dimension to this rabbit universe, one very much

Whacking. I'm hell at whacking.

Witness (1985) (SPOILERS) Witness saw the advent of a relatively brief period – just over half a decade –during which Harrison Ford was willing to use his star power in an attempt to branch out. The results were mixed, and abruptly concluded when his typically too late to go where Daniel Day Lewis, Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro had gone before (with at bare minimum Oscar-nominated results) – but not “ full retard ” – ended in derision with Regarding Henry . He retreated to the world of Tom Clancy, and it’s the point where his cachet began to crumble. There had always been a stolid quality beneath even his more colourful characters, but now it came to the fore. You can see something of that as John Book in Witness – despite his sole Oscar nom, it might be one of Ford’s least interesting performances of the 80s – but it scarcely matters, or that the screenplay (which won) is by turns nostalgic, reactionary, wistful and formulaic, as director Peter Weir, in his Hollywood debu

The Illumi-what-i?

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022) (SPOILERS) In which Sam Raimi proves that he can stand proudly with the best – or worst – of them as a good little foot soldier of the woke apocalypse. You’d expect the wilfully anarchic – and Republican – Raimi to choke on the woke, but instead, he’s sucked it up, grinned and bore it. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is so slavishly a production-line Marvel movie, both in plotting and character, and in nu-Feige progressive sensibilities, there was no chance of Sam staggering out from beneath its suffocating demands with anything more than a few scraps of stylistic flourish intact.

If that small woman is small enough, she could fit behind a small tree.

Stranger Things Season 4: Volume 2 (SPOILERS) I can’t quite find it within myself to perform the rapturous somersaults that seem to be the prevailing response to this fourth run of the show. I’ve outlined some of my thematic issues in the Volume 1 review, largely borne out here, but the greater concern is one I’ve held since Season Two began – and this is the best run since Season One, at least as far my failing memory can account for – and that’s the purpose-built formula dictated by the Duffer Brothers. It’s there in each new Big Bad, obviously, even to the extent that this is the Big-Bad-who-binds-them-all (except the Upside Down was always there, right?) And it’s there with the resurgent emotional beats, partings, reunions and plaintively stirring music cues. I have to be really on board with a movie or show to embrace such flagrantly shameless manipulation, season after season, and I find myself increasingly immune.

Get away from my burro!

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) (SPOILERS) The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is beloved by so many of the cinematic firmament’s luminaries – Stanley Kubrick, Sam Raimi, , Paul Thomas Anderson and who knows maybe also WS, Vince Gilligan, Spike Lee, Daniel Day Lewis; Oliver Stone was going to remake it – not to mention those anteriorly influential Stone Roses, that it seems foolhardy to suggest it isn’t quite all that. There’s no faulting the performances – a career best Humphrey Bogart, with director John Huston’s dad Walter stealing the movie from under him – but the greed-is-bad theme is laid on a little thick, just in case you were a bit too dim to get it yourself the first time, and Huston’s direction may be right there were it counts for the dramatics, but it’s a little too relaxed when it comes to showing the seams between Mexican location and studio.

Your Mickey Mouse is one big stupid dope!

Enemy Mine (1985) (SPOILERS) The essential dynamic of Enemy Mine – sworn enemies overcome their differences to become firm friends – was a well-ploughed one when it was made, such that it led to TV Tropes assuming, since edited, that it took its title from an existing phrase (Barry Longyear, author of the 1979 novella, made it up, inspired by the 1961 David Niven film The Best of Enemies ). The Film Yearbook Volume 5 opined that that Wolfgang Petersen’s picture “ lacks the gritty sauciness of Hell in the Pacific”; John Boorman’s WWII film stranded Lee Marvin and Toshiro Mifune on a desert island and had them first duking it out before becoming reluctant bedfellows. Perhaps germanely, both movies were box office flops.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls… dyin’ time’s here!

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985) Time was kind to Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome . As in, it was such a long time since I’d seen the “final chapter” of the trilogy, it had dwindled in my memory to the status of an “alright but not great” sequel. I’d half-expected to have positive things to say along the lines of it being misunderstood, or being able to see what it was trying for but perhaps failing to quite achieve. Instead, I re-discovered a massive turkey that is really a Mad Max movie in name only (appropriately, since Max was an afterthought). This is the kind of picture fans of beloved series tend to loathe; when a favourite character returns but without the qualities or tone that made them adored in the first place (see Indiana Jones in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull , or John McClane in the last two Die Hard s). Thunderdome stinks even more than the methane fuelling Bartertown. I hadn’t been aware of the origins of Thunderdome until recently, mainly because I was