Look, if you haven’t seen Everything Everywhere All At Once yet I’m not going to waste your time here. There’s no reason for me to try to vaguely explain what’s happening in this movie so you can figure out if you should go see it. You should. If you’ve never trusted me before, trust me right now. Everything Everywhere All At Once is great.
Here’s A24’s synopsis if you’re into that sort of thing.
Directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, collectively known as Daniels, the film is a hilarious and big-hearted sci-fi action adventure about an exhausted Chinese American woman (Michelle Yeoh) who can’t seem to finish her taxes.-A24
Michelle Yeoh is great. Stephanie Hsu is great. Ke Huy Quan is great. It’s not really like anything else you’ve seen recently. It takes some of the best parts of other movies and puts them together with some new ideas in a way that feels entirely unique. I laughed, I cried, and I went “ooooooh shit”. What more can you can ask for?
Go see the damn movie.
Recommendation: Go to the theaters as soon as you can. Hire a baby sitter. Buy some snacks.
I’m still going to wax poetic here, as I’m wont to do. The movie deserves that. But this “review” isn’t going to be the typical “oh, the performances were so great! The action, wow!” review. You can find a lot of other people who have done that really well for this film. Ya boy, on the other hand, is gonna talk much more generally and philosophically. EEAAO was an important reminder for me of what makes movies “good” and why that matters.
So I’m gonna talk about all that. Come along, dear friend. There’s no spoilers.
What Makes A Movie Good? Depends
Typically when critics and film nerds break down whether movies are “good” or not we zoom in and talk about it very technically. We split it up into categories and we break it down piece by piece, much like awards categories. Is the acting good? Is the script good? Are the cinematography and visual effects good? Is the music and sound good? Is the editing good? Was the makeup good? Things like that.
Usually reviewers will have a category or 2 that they weigh more heavily than the others and that’ll decide what kind of movies they call good. That mentality is why you’ve seen a bunch of nerds all over the internet trying to tell you that Spider-Man: No Way Home isn’t actually good because there’s too much CGI or whatever.
Most of the time when “normal people” talk about whether a movie is good or not, the conversation zooms out instead of zooming in. Most of those technical categories either fade out entirely or blend together to the point that they can’t be distinguished from each other. The important part of determining good from bad, typically, is whether the end product is entertaining.
Editing, visual effects/cinematography, music/sound and fight choreography all blend together into “the action was sooooo dope”! A 40K foot view of acting isn’t concerned with technical skill or degree of difficulty or how good the writing is, just whether or not the actor in question is cool and likable. Or, typically with women, whether they can make you sad when they’re sad.
For Reviewers Like Me
In today’s media environment, the best critics are those who can bridge the two approaches. Some of my favorite reviewers – whether traditional writers like Richard Lawson of Vanity Fair or YouTubers like Marcus of Cosmonaut Variety Hour – can dive into the individual technical categories critics/nerds love. But importantly, they can then explain how/why those pieces work (or don’t work) and coalesce into the bigger picture in a way normal people can see from 40k feet.
I try to do that when I review things. Explain only as much as necessary about the individual technical categories combined with the real world context of the film (who’s in it, what do you have to do to watch it, etc.) to help my readers figure out whether or not they’ll enjoy the experience of a movie as a whole.
Everything Everywhere All At Once’s Reminder
What Everything Everywhere All At Once was able to do, for me, was remind me why we watch movies in the first place and what “good” actually means. The necessary condition of a good movie – of art in general – is that it shows us something about the human condition that we know to be true, even if we may have forgotten it.
However you grade movies, at the end of it all I’m willing to bet your favorite films – the ones you come back to over and over – are the ones that either introduced or reaffirmed your outlook on life or humanity. Comedies, action movies, horror movies, Broadway plays, paintings, rap albums, it doesn’t matter. Our favorites, the best stuff, finds interesting ways to tell us what we already know.
People love rom-coms because they appreciate the affirmation that love prevails in the end. People love traditional superhero movies as a reminder that good can and will find a way to triumph over evil. This applies to negative emotions too. Films like Taxi Driver, Joker and Fight Club are (usually) most beloved by those who feel a similar internal, existential rage to the ones those characters show and agree to some extent with their philosophies, if not necessarily their actions. The reverse is true as well. People who hate rom-coms or traditional superhero movies or sadboy mass shooter films as concepts usually actually hate the commentary on humanity at their center. “Why do the good guys always win? Why does the guy always get the girl? That’s not how life works!”
How Everything Everywhere All At Once pulled it off
Everything Everywhere All At Once is pretty transparent about what its opinions on the human condition and meaning of life are from a very early stage. Just like when waiting to get on a roller coaster, you know exactly where you’re going to end up when the ride is over. But the fun part is in how you get there. The way the movie flows – the character journeys, the incredible acting, how the script gives you new information mixed with laughs – and how it visually arrests you the entire time make this one of the best roller coasters around.
But like I’ve been saying this entire time, what makes it so damn good is the life-affirming central commentary. The movie’s message about love, family, kindness, and choosing life in the face of nihilism and cynicism was something I definitely needed right now. Sometimes it’s hard living life out here, man. But every now and again something or someone comes along and pushes you to keep going by reminding you that life can be beautiful and it’s worth living. This film was one of those things for me, and I think it will be for a lot of people.
So mark it down.
Everything Everywhere All At Once has today, in one viewing, established itself as one of my favorite movies of all time.
Follow me, Dex Hinton, on Twitter @LordDexHinton.
You can follow Apollo Media’s brand new official Movies/Pop Culture account @WatchWithApollo. And you can follow the podcast One Take Pod as well @1TakePod. Listen now wherever you get your podcasts. Our latest episode is about Ambulance. We will be dropping an episode about Everything Everywhere All At Once very soon as well. Check it out & subscribe.
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