I’d like to think that great actors like Michelle Yeoh and James Hung knew what was going on when they made “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” But I doubt it. A hit — $60 million in the US– Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s cult film is all over the place, visually stunning but totally incoherent. It’s a 45 minute film about family loyalty, forgiveness and acceptance tacked onto almost two hours of random flashes of brilliance.
“EEAO” is a cult film thanks to a lot of support from bloggers and Film Twitter. I will never deny anyone their happiness. If you know what this movie is about, and can endure the length, more power to you. I’m sure the National Board of Review will embrace it because of their affiliation with A24 Films. But when this movie heads into the Big Oscar arena, say goodnight.
Indeed, just by accident, I wound up discussing this with two pretty solid Academy voters. Their response? “We turned it off. And there was good stuff there.”
Michelle Yeoh, who I’d be happy to vote for for anything, is named Evelyn and has a big family and a Chinese laundromat in suburban Los Angeles. She has a husband (the much younger looking Ke Huy Quan– aka Short Round from 1984’s “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom), a daughter played by “Mrs. Maisel”‘s marvelous Stephanie Hsu, and a father in the form of 93 year old legend James Hong. The old man is coming to visit, and Yeoh is afraid to tell him Hsu’s Joy is gay. (She has a very understanding girlfriend, too.)
Evelyn is having a tax audit at the IRS offices conducted by a wacky agent played by Jamie Lee Curtis. (She’s very good, and game for anything, I guess, after so many “Halloween” movies.) Just as they all sit down to go over years’ worth of receipts, something odd happens. Mild mannered Waymond (Quan) disappears into an alternate universe. Like “Spider Man” or “Doctor Strange,” except for no reason. He pulls Evelyn into this space, where violence and action now replace all character development. And that’s the rest of the movie until near the end, where the real characters return and hug each other.
The visuals are dazzling. But they are put together with some form of ADHD. If there’s a story in the alternate universe, I couldn’t figure it out. This is a comic book movie pretending to be something else — maybe “Cloud Atlas” but that movie didn’t work either.
The film itself adds up to little. The actors are terrific and deserve some recognition for their work. The fact that Michelle Yeoh threw herself into this is remarkable. Hsu already had me from “Mrs. Maisel” and looks like she’s building a career quickly. I give Hong credit for showing up for work after the script was explained to him.
So how did this adventure in tediousness make $60 million? It is really a big cult film. The comic book stuff is what sold it to a certain audience, which is fine. As my Academy friends noted, a movie based on the beginning and end material would have been a lot more interesting.
PS How did I see it? Never had a screening or a screener. Or even a press release. Just paid $5.99 on Amazon Prime. The price was right!