What “Everything Everywhere at the same time” (Everything Everywhere All at Once) has achieved in a year of travel, few (or no one) saw it coming.
This unclassifiable film starring Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh), a middle-aged Chinese immigrant who runs a laundromat in California, and which is at the same time science fiction, absurd comedy, a martial arts film and an indie family plot, rose this Sunday as the great winner of the 95th edition of the Oscars.
Made with seven of the 11 awards to which it aspired -including the jackpot, the best film-, the one for best actress for Yeoh, and the ones for best supporting actors for Ke Huy Quan and Jamie Lee Curtis, thus putting the icing on the cake to a season full of triumphs.
The seven Oscars won by “Everything everywhere at the same time” have been the icing on the cake of a season of triumphs. GETTY IMAGES
It’s just that there hasn’t been a film industry that hasn’t recognized it —so did the unions of producers, actors, directors, and screenwriters—, and before the Academy, it also swept the independent film awards, the Spirit Awards.
And all while grossing $100 million at the box office. Not bad for a $14 million production from independent studio A24.
What, then, is the secret to this unlikely movie winning it all, almost at once and practically everywhere?
1. It’s a breath of fresh air (and a response to the times)
“She injects energy into the cinema as Tarantino’s movies did in the 90s,” Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón has said of her.
And his compatriots Alejandro González Iñárritu and Guillermo del Toro have called it “the Trainspotting of this generation”, comparing it to the groundbreaking 1996 film directed by the British Danny Boyle.
Also translated as “Everything at Once Everywhere”, it is the second feature film by the duo known as the Daniels: Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert.
Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, the Daniels, are the brains behind “Everything Everywhere at the Same Time.” GETTY IMAGES
Given that the first, Swiss Army Man (2006), starred a castaway (Paul Dano) who befriends a flatulent corpse (Daniel Radcliffe), it was to be expected that his new film would also break ground.
And boy does it do.
Its 140 minutes call into question the most conservative idea of what a movie should be.
And they accommodate, among others, a raccoon that uses a chef as a puppet (a clear allusion to Ratatouille), a moment of intimacy between two women who have sausages for fingers, an anal plug that functions as a portal to parallel dimensions, rocks that talk telepathically and a bagel symbolizing nihilism.
“The result is a mess, but a meticulously planned and executed mess, with every shot, sound effect, and visual device fitting exactly as the Daniels intended in this dense, cacophonous monstrosity, which strives to capture the awesome burden of trying to exist in a world of limitless options“, writes film critic Peter Debruge in Variety.
Michelle Yeoh won her first Oscar. GETTY IMAGES
“It’s a hyperactive solution for attention deficit audiences, who have been bombarded with bad news—pandemics, protests, and impending world wars—and whose real concerns boil down to the basics, like getting along with their parents or finding money to pay the rent”.
2. It is as strange as it is familiar
The plot of “Everything at the same time everywhere” begins describing the hard life to make ends meet in the Wangs, who have been settled in the United States for decades.
Their laundry was never a thriving business, and now they must face an audit conducted by a grumpy tax clerk (Jaime Lee Curtis) who insists that his accounts do not add up.
And all while their family dynamic falls apart: Evelyn sees her marriage with Waymond (Ke Huy Quan) in jeopardy; her relationship with her father, Gong Gong (James Hong), an angry old man, is shipwrecked and cannot get along with his daughter, Joy (Stephanie Hsu).
However, in the Treasury office he discovers that what he has lived is only an infinitesimal part of millions of possible lives, and that his life experience is different in other universes.
He is also assigned the mission of disarming Jobu Tupaki, a ruthless assassin present in the rest of the dimensions, and save the multiverse from destruction, which she will achieve by jumping from universe to universe.
However, despite the convoluted narrative, the Daniels maintain that theirs is one of the most realistic films of the year.
“All the characters are in their own worlds. They talk without understanding each other. It was the perfect opportunity to show that we actually already live in the multiverse.Kwan said on the Script Apart podcast.
And it is that, behind all that visual madness, the film talks about topics that are familiar to us: the mother-child love, the intergenerational gap, the fractured identity of migrantsdepression, the weight of the past and even the reason for our existence.
Ke Huy Quan made up for years of ostracism. GETTY IMAGES
“It was fun to write from that perspective,” Scheinert said of it. “Trying to explore other crazy, weird, absurd philosophical things that reflect our point of view and say something about generational divides and how we struggle to understand each other.”
“At its core, ‘Everything Everywhere At The Same Time’ is the classic tale of a marriage falling apart and a family in need of healing. It’s a barrage against despair and nihilism. It pretty much ends with a group hug, and Seeing that, feeling that, has been therapeutic for a lot of people, including those who vote at the awards,” wrote Glenn Whipp, a columnist and film critic for the Los Angeles Times.
3. Offer something to every audience
For being a frenzy genre overlap and combining various fictions into one, the film has something to offer for every type of audience.
It is attractive for lovers of science fiction, for those who like kung fu films, for those who prefer auteur cinema, absurd comedy, surrealism, satire.
The most moviegoers will find in it nods to The Matrix, the cyberpunk blockbuster directed by the Wachowskis, with Michelle Yeoh assuming a role similar to that of Neo; to classic martial arts movies from the 70s and 80s like Clan of the White Lotus, in Evelyn’s kung fu master, played by Li Jing; to “2001: A Space Odyssey” by Stanley Kubrick, on intelligent rocks that communicate telepathically; or In the Mood for Love, by Wong Kar Wai.
Stephanie Hsu, who was nominated for best supporting actress, and David Byrne on stage at the Dolby Theater. GETTY IMAGES
The film also tries to arrive at a multigenerational and multicultural audience.
“Three different generations can relate to the story and it has great appeal for immigrant families of various ethnic backgrounds,” writes Caryn James for BBC Future.
Much has been thought about the latter and how the fragmented world of the film is a reflection of real life, particularly that of these communities.
“Being an immigrant is living in a fragmented multiverse”, Princeton professor Anne Anlin Cheng wrote about it in The Washington Post.
The protagonist herself has made reference to how the film helps, in turn, to make the Asian-American community visible.
“I am very aware that this (her Oscar nomination) is beyond recognition of me as an actress. It’s a whole community of Asians saying: you have to do it for us.“Michelle Yeoh told the BBC ahead of the Oscars.
Yeoh, 60, has a long filmography within Hong Kong action cinema and made the leap to the US in 1997 to shoot “Tomorrow Never Dies”, one of the James Bond films, but the great The public knows her more perhaps for her role in “Tiger and Dragon”.
Although it has been “Everything everywhere at the same time” that has catapulted his career.
Harrison Ford and Ke Huy Quan as a child in a scene from “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.” PARAMOUNT PICTURES
And also that of another of the protagonists of the film, Ke Huy Quan, who became famous as a child actor for “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” and “The Goonies”, but had been retired from the cinema for years.
With the Oscar nomination that earned him the Daniels film he has made up for years of ostracism.
“Everything everywhere at the same time” he took his first steps stealthily.
It premiered on March 11, 2022 at the South By Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas, an unlikely starting point in the Oscar race.
During the weekend of its premiere in the US. it was shown only in 10 theaters.
Although months later it was already in 3,000 theaters in the country and in hundreds around the world, raising more than US$100 million and dilapidating the barriers between auteur cinema and the big industry.
Experts agree that word of mouth was to blame for this.
And that the answer to the headline of this article is simple: many people liked the film.
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