Watch after Everything everywhere at oncethe glorious new film from the director duo Daniel Kun and Daniel Scheinertshows that this interdimensional sci-fi comedy delivers what dozens of other movies and TV shows have promised in recent years. It’s the antidote to These Uncertain Times, a burst of joyful creativity that counters the bleakness of the present moment with its own brand of nihilistic optimism. It begins with a story about a harried Asian named Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh) tries to pay their taxes, then it escalates into a celebration of the entire universe. When the world enters a post-pandemic phase – if such a thing even exists – Everything everywhere is the perfect film to bring audiences out of this two-year hold.
Of course, the audience has heard this before. Teddy Lasso was sold as a symbol of comfort and friendliness, became a killer app for Apple TV+, and won a boatload of Emmys in the process. KODA followed a similar path to Oscar fame, arguing that a heartwarming crowd puller was just what moviegoers needed. All of Abbott Elementary School to the in the heights movie too Joe Pera is talking to you was pitched as a tonic for a weary, pessimistic audience, bowl after bowl of chicken soup for the soul. It’s a feel-good update of the Trump-era obsession with “necessary art”: the idea that media should not only be good, but good in a way to the the audience.
Calming down the collective psyche of the zeitgeist is certainly a noble endeavor, and none of the aforementioned shows or films are bad. But while no one can blame audiences for wanting comfort food now, an emphasis on warm and fluffy feelings can lead to humble, low-brow entertainment. Teddy Lasso is often delightful, but it’s often overly cute, using its cookie-laden charm offensive to balance plots and characters that are never quite as complex as the show seems to believe. But now KODA admirably highlights a marginalized community, the narrative itself is pure paradigm, and the director makes obvious choices around every corner. This type of approach creates an environment where simplicity and cliche are virtues in their own right, where simple uplift can be rebranded as bold and radical.
Everything everywhere at once was greeted with widespread acclaim, but some were more measured in their praise, viewing the last thirty minutes as overly snotty and sentimental. Everything everywhere is the kind of freewheeling, irreverent film that features fanny pack fights, a sprawling riff Ratatouille, and an alternate universe where humans have hot dogs instead of fingers, among other things. balance everything that with a earnest plea for kindness in the face of a vast, indifferent universe is a tall order, and viewer mileage may vary as to whether Daniels has pulled it off.
Still, there are a few things that separate Everything everywhere‘s mark of serious friendliness of something like Teddy Lasso – and not just because no one has ever been beaten to death with giant dildos Teddy Lasso. (Yet.) Feel-good media is only a problem if it aims to be palatable to the masses without risk; to put it mildly Everything everywhere doesn’t have this problem. It’s risky making an action film about an exhausted Asian mother trying to pay her taxes; it’s risky to build an intricate multiverse with bizarre rules and rituals and expect audiences to join in; Asking the audience to emotionally immerse themselves in relationship drama between two women using sausages for fingers is risky. It’s risky to make a universe-sized film that requires absolute technical precision (from the editors, from the VFX crew, etc.) on an eighth the budget of the average Marvel film. Ambition is not an issue here.
more to the point, Everything everywhere earns his kindness by exploring what it means to be kind at the moment, rather than looking at kindness as an abstract principle. Nobody thinks that the world is to nonetheless friendly and generous. It’s easy enough to agree that people should be less cynical or that optimism is a healthy way of looking at things. But when it feels like society is circling the drain toward oblivion? When half the country refuses to recognize the other half as human beings? When optimism feels delusional at best and dangerous at worst? So what?
Then, as Waymond Wang (Ke Huy Quan) suggests that kindness and optimism are more important than ever. When his wife smashes the windows of their laundromat with a baseball bat, he hums as he sweeps up the pieces. When an IRS agent comes by to repossess the business, he argues with her and buys her another week. And when his old flame in an alternate universe coolly dismisses the possibility that they could ever be happy together, he’s thoughtful and understanding. “You think because I’m nice it means I’m naive,” he says — and maybe he is. But for him, kindness is “strategic and necessary.” “That’s how I fight,” he says, and somewhere in the multiverse, Evelyn notices.
Maybe there are those who don’t respond well to the ending of Everything everywhere at once. You might find the approach of killing her with kindness silly when Evelyn saves the day through the power of BDSM, human puppetry, and chiropractic medicine. You might ask if gong gong (James Hong) would really accept that his granddaughter (Stephanie Hasu) has a girlfriend. You might even shrug your shoulders at the film’s thesis – after all, it’s not the first film to suggest kindness in the face of oblivion. But it has seldom been executed with such creativity and flair, it has seldom been played in such a poignant manner, and it has never come at a better time than now. Whatever criteria are required to “deserve” such frank humanism, Everything everywhere overcomes every possible hurdle – and happily shoots his way to a trophy in the form of a butt plug.
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