The Conservative Critic
OSCAR WATCH: Is Everything, Everywhere, All At Once Actually Too Much?
Everything Everywhere All At Once (Everywhere), which was released to theaters in 2022 and is now streaming on Showtime, is widely considered to be a top front runner to take top prize (Best Picture) at the Academy Awards. It’s leading lady, Michelle Yeoh (Shang Chi and the Legend of the 10 Rings) on which the film deeply relies has already won took home the top acting prize for women in film at the Golden Globes and is nominated for the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) award as well as the Oscar. The film itself received the most nominations in the history of SAG and is leading the Oscar nominations with a total of 11. Considering Banshees of Inisherin (the other front runner) took home top prize at the Golden Globes and the Academy historically does not like to copy-cat on Best Picture, it’s increasingly likely that Everywhere is going to be the big winner.
But is Everything actually too much? The Conservative Critic asks: Is it entertaining? Does it have artistic/intellectual value? And is it liberal propaganda?
The Conservative Critic Meter Check: Everything, Everywhere, All At Once
Overall Rating: Aptly named (it’s a lot of things)
It’s easy to see why the Academy and the film community is enamored with Everything. The film blends comedy with drama; relationship driven character drama with trendy feminist musings on fulfillment and choice. It’s funny, it’s emotional, it’s ridiculous, it’s powerful, it’s action packed, it’s too slow. It is genuinely everything, everywhere, all at once.
The composition, concept and talent of the film is its value core. The entire acting roster gives their all and each brings something special of their own to the screen. The visuals are unique and while they play on some traditional eastern film traditions, the way they blend into the western aesthetic is really unusual and all together very – dare I simplify – pretty even when violent.
However, because the film explores the multiverse in such a chaotic way it does become fairly repetitive even with all the action and the central theme and even the plot of the film is so muddy it’s not as engaging as it needs to be to keep viewers interested for its 2 hours+ duration.
Additionally, where the themes do emerge clearly they are rooted in eastern beliefs which have been perpetuated by the Communist Party of China to keep their citizens lacking in faith or purpose beyond the service of the party. While the party isn’t invoked in the film, the disturbing origins of popular nihilism are enough to ding Everything pretty hard for propaganda in general but also there are quite a few western liberal themes as well.
Is it entertaining?
Rating: A little too muddy
For a film that causes laughter and tears in one scene and has action sequences every three minutes, it was oddly difficult to get into. It seems that with the chaos of all the conflicting visuals, storylines and themes the film becomes something like a really harried white noise. Like a sound machine playing sounds of the Vegas Strip at 9 pm on a Saturday. There is so much happening it’s as if time is standing still. Artistically, the effect works beautifully with the overall ideas and direction of Everything but it doesn’t make for much for a viewer to hold on to.
It’s interesting because the run time is 2 hours and 19 minutes which is only 10 minutes above average for films of today (my preference is always to keep it short of 2 hours, tighten your stories folks!) Other Oscar contenders are far more luxurious with their pace. For example, Tar, which is also nominated and arguably has far less plotline, has a 2 hour and 38 minutes. But Everything felt extremely long. So long that many viewers describe it by saying “it was so good even though it was so long.” Everything sets itself up for this artificial sense of interminability by presenting it’s audience with not two but three conclusions. It breaks itself into parts that are complete with strong endings. So when the next part begins and includes a lot of repetitive material, the audience feels like – wow this is going on forever.
It’s not boring by any means. It’s a watchable, enjoyable film. But it feels a bit like a slog. The viewer will feel like they’ve sacrificed a bit in order to continue on the path.
Does it have artistic/intellectual value?
Rating: *Chefs kiss*
Everything does the impossible by being incomparably unique. From the screenplay to the style to the setting and even the musical choices, there is really nothing like it in the common memory. If anything, it can only be compared to other films which were also incomparable such as Clockwork Orange or Dr. Strangelove. There is nothing similar about the films except that they are ~weird~ and brilliantly made (and perhaps that they aren’t for everyone’s tastes).
Everything visually delivers on every plane. There brutal realism, a woman fighting is dirty, messy and bloody. There are breathtaking panoramic landscapes in at least one universe. There are colorful and intriguing costumes in celestial otherworldly spaces. There are hot dog fingers (you read that right). The transitions are spectacular. At one point, the character Joy played by Stephanie Hsu (Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) splits the universe with her hands and it’s really something very wonderful to look at. Overall, the film also enjoys a lot of symmetrical staging creating a sort of a mirrored effect from one half of the scene to the other. Along with the score which blends a genre defying original score (by Son Lux) with the extremely well known and very stable Clair De Lune by Claud Debussy.
The performances are all of the highest quality. Yeoh who is a longtime household name has finally found a role in Eveyln Wang which manages to stretch her capabilities. She is doing comedy, she is doing drama, she is doing eastern, she is doing western, she’s doing martial arts but she’s also doing Ratatouille (that is correct). It’s almost like the part is written as a dare and she comes through big time. Hsu also brings something pretty special. She is asked to split between petulant young adult to multiversal power player all while decked out in some pretty heavy makeup and hair. It never seems ridiculous (except when it’s supposed to seem ridiculous). The sleeper performance of the film is Ke Huy Quan as Wayman Wang. At first Quan is sort of a background character. Basically a plot device. But as the film stretches so too is he allowed to explore and find a million nuances in the 30 characters in one he’s been tasked with portraying.
Overall, the writing/directing team of Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert had a handle on what they wanted to achieve and they achieved it. The effect of their creative efforts was *chefs kiss.*
Is it liberal propaganda?
Rating: Chinese and liberal propo
There are two major salient points in the film, both of which are very liberal. One is just garden variety nihilism masquerading as something interesting. The other is this exploration of the dissatisfaction of domesticated women over 40 which is extremely trendy in storytelling right now but has roots in the early stages of American feminism (think A Room of One’s Own but more self-indulgent).
Nihilism is the idea, essentially, that nothing matters. Life will end and every choice has a random consequence so nothing matters at all. I have problems with the notion for a million reasons not least of which is that it was made popular by the Communist Party of China because they didn’t want their subjects to have hope, or faith or any purpose belonging to the service of their Party. This is not to be confused with the term “historical nihilism” which the Party uses to describe any disagreement with their version of historical events. The idea was – it doesn’t matter if you die in this war for China or die doing hard labor for China because guess what we all die anyway. This was also employed in the socialist movements of Russia and can be seen pretty widely in popular ideology in Ukraine and Russia today. The idea that nothing matters does not actually free you, it binds you to go along with whatever the current hegemony tells you matters. If you have an internal understanding of what is important, then whatever someone tells you is important will seem so. If you stand for nothing, you fall for anything.
Additionally, it is simply not true. Everything matters. Every choice we make impacts our lives and the lives of other people. Faith is the idea that we are all here to serve the purpose of God and that encourages us to love, protect and serve our fellow man. Everything does matter. Nothing is pointless. People matter. You matter. It is dangerous to lie about this. It is extremely damaging to the human spirit to decide nothing matters when it actually, very much, very deeply does matter.
Finally, nihilism is lazy and boring. I am truly exhausted with it. It’s just so shallow and over explored. Nihilism in storytelling is like sending a team of deep sea divers to a tide pool. We have seen what there is to see. Further exploration – not really that interesting, thanks.
Everything also explores the idea that women become dissatisfied with domestic life and choices and are so worn out from their boring lives by their forties and fifties that they become borderline mentally ill. Once again, this theme is so tediously over-explored I could fill a year with films dedicated to it. And while some of the messaging does resonate with me and have broader implications than the more liberal urban elite sentimentality (re: women are human people who need specific purpose just like men do and work is one of the easiest ways to achieve that purpose but certainly not the only way) much of it is really very whiny and out of touch with reality. Being a wife and a mother is an exhausting path but it is full of fulfillment. It is odd to me that leftist storytelling so often finds mothers filled with so much boredom and ennui – so much more so than an over tasked career woman – when all I’ve ever seen of mothers is that their lives are so full they can barely make time for anything extra. They lose themselves as individuals because they get lost so much in love with the individuals in their family. But just like being lost and bored and regretting everything feels inauthentic and also, as I said, done to absolute death.
While Everything, Everywhere, All At Once artistically innovates, it falls short of engaging it’s audience or finding anything new or worthwhile to say. In my estimation, it was not the best picture of the year which isn’t to say it won’t win the Oscar for it.