As has become tradition and in keeping with my year of best in class, March is the month for my top movie of the year. In previous years, I feel like this choice has been a sentimental favorite for some reason but not truly an awards contender. This year, however, I believe my top choice and that of the Academy Awards will line up. We’re talking about Everything Everywhere All at Once (dir. Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert).
Before I get into the plot, I am going to encourage everyone who has not seen EEAAO (as it has become known) to stop reading this right now and watch the movie first. This is one of those rare occasions where the less you know about it, the more impactful the ride will be. And, hoo boy, is it a ride.
EEAAO is the story of Evelyn Quan Wang (Michelle Yeoh – my choice for Best Actress this year) who runs a laundromat with her husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan – my choice for Best Supporting Actor this year). In the first scene, they are discussing a pending divorce…but this is not to be taken at face value as the film is a fascinating take on the recently developed multiverse concept. The twist in this case is they have the power to consciously jump and control various aspects of other parallel universes. To say much more than that would spoil the journey. That very basic plot probably sounds convoluted and difficult to follow. It may be that for some, but if you just strap in and let the movie take you on its journey, much more of it will make sense than not.
Uniqueness is something that is hard to quantify but fairly easy to identify. You know it when you see it. There is no film like EEAAO. Other films deal with the multiverse (more every month it seems). Others have that frenetic energy and pace. Others are complicated family dramas. Nothing does all of that at as high a level as EEAAO. Yeoh and Quan are at their career bests in this. (I believe I am contractually obligated by the internet code of people who write about movies to mention that Quan is best known as Short Round from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.) They are ably supported by brilliant performances from also Oscar-nominated Stephanie Hsu and Jamie Lee Curtis. The only way to avoid the brilliance of this film is to not surrender to it. Unplug from your device for the duration. Clear your mind of any reasonable expectations of watching a film. And just…live in it for two hours and nineteen minutes.
It would be easy to dismiss the concept and indeed the first half of the film as niche storytelling for a modern audience without real substance, but do not be fooled by that – the film punches you in the feels by the end. If you do not say out loud (even and perhaps especially if you watch this film by yourself), “What just happened?” several times, then you are not paying close enough attention. To have your mind blown when watching a film is such a rare treat these days when half of the releases are remakes, sequels, and retellings. The originality both in filmmaking techniques and in the story is something to behold.
FUN FACT – Jamie Lee Curtis’ character (the delightfully named Deirdre Beaubeirdre) is based on a stock photo of an IRS tax worker from Covington, KY. The look is virtually identical except the stock character has black rimmed glasses while Deirdre’s have red rims.
Just Watch says that EEAAO is currently streaming on Showtime and has been re-released in theaters in the run up to the Oscars. It is also available to buy on most platforms, including AppleTV, Redbox, and Amazon Prime.