Everything Everywhere All at Once

Everything Everywhere All at Once ★★

After seeing this movie, I left the theater last night to check my phone and hear about the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Wait, let me preface this review because my take on this movie is irreparably tied to the exact moment that I saw it. The viewing experience was lovely -- a lively theater, sitting with a cherished loved one and a new friend, getting a little tipsy. This environment was perfect (at least for me) to enjoy the quippy Marvel-style humor pervasive in practically all mainstream film right now. Michelle Yeoh's performance blew me away, and the fight choreography was awe-inspiring, keeping my attention during the sluggish third act. At worst, I kept thinking to myself, "Damn, I wish I was watching The Matrix right now."

And that's where my more profound qualms with this movie start to reveal themselves. I had just rewatched Bound a couple of hours earlier in class. This film expertly depicts dyke sexuality in the context of a romantic crime thriller, signaling the Wachowski sisters' gender politics perhaps before they were conscious of them themselves (and indeed before they started showing their asses re: race time and time again). Now EEAAO is far from the same kind of movie, but the Daniels' are obviously indebted to the Wachowskis' breadth of imagination and fusion of sci-fi, romance, martial arts, the list goes on.

That's all well and good during the IRS office scene, a part I truly loved, but Joy and Evelyn's strained connection is where the movie loses me. What hangs in the balance is the preservation of their relationship depending on Evelyn's ability to accept Joy's girlfriend -- like literally to say the word girlfriend, the bar being lower than the floor. The relationship is very conveniently sexless too, a desperate plea for acceptance via sanitization that frankly feels downright homophobic juxtaposed with all of the optic jokes about male anal sex and leathersex. Joy threatening her mother with disaffection might be more emotionally potent were the stakes higher, but the implication is that a daughter breaking away from her mother is nigh apocalyptic. It's an attempt to reflect traditionalist impulses in Chinese-American parents, but the way it all shakes out reassures us that Evelyn can say the magic words and undo what must be years of alienating her daughter. For every queer Chinese immigrant child who has reconciled their sexuality with their family, there is another who has not. Neither their worlds have ended, nor have the worlds of their parents: life goes on after the family.

It was not like the news last night was particularly shocking, nor does it have anything to do with my issues with the movie on the surface. But I couldn't help but feel like it accidentally represented the face of the forces fighting against bodily autonomy and queer liberation -- shallow, liberal, queer only in the most apolitical sense possible.

jamie liked these reviews