Thoughts on “Everything Everywhere All the Time”

March 10, 2023 at 12:33 pm (By Amba)

Crazy movie, reflective of the times. Infinite multiple universes is sort of a clever, diverting explanation for why nothing makes sense and it’s all coming at us too fast—less depressing than information overload and societal collapse. The survival skills required—fast reflexes and split-second ingenuity—are cleverly compared to superhero skills. You have to act without understanding—not only is there no time for understanding, but it’s not forthcoming. Variations on “But it doesn’t make any sense” are the most repeated line in the film.

The movie combines the popular genres of superhero special-effects action film and romantic dramedy. There’s quite a lot of family pain in it—any mother trying to save a self-destructive, alienated teen-age daughter from drugs or suicide will relate—as well as economic precarity and the struggling immigrant’s fear of Authority and women with unexpressed talents and dreams, and the more universal feeling that you’ve wasted your life and your potential. Everything everywhere packed into 2 hours. And the truism (verging on banality) that only love and kindness can make the lion (IRS agent) lie down with the lamb and bind all the shattered fragments together. I burst out laughing many times and also cried—couldn’t help it—it was sort of reliably wrung from me the way a vibrator makes you come whether you’re in the mood or not. Hollywood movies are engineered for that. The best part of the movie was the absurd humor. (An everything bagel has become a black hole. Rolly-eye stick-ons become power-conferring bindi dots.) The most interesting part was the acid-trippy strobing of one’s actual past and infinite possible selves.

So is it “good”? I’m not sure a movie can be “good” without a clear, strong storyline. But that dates me. That relic of a bygone era (the Newtonian storyline?) has been blown out of the water by . . . technology, which makes too much possible all at once and has scrambled both our world and our brains. At least the movie finds a way to represent that.

But does it deserve the Oscar?

It’s interesting that the IMDb reviews are so split. Some people really got it (especially the emotional subtext) and loved it. Others hated it. Not much in between that I could see.

My favorite image for the unraveling of it all remains Ursula K. LeGuin’s in The Lathe of Heaven, where the force undoing everything emanates from the black hole at the heart of a Bill Gates–like world-perfecting world-destroyer. And after that process is heroically stopped, what’s left is a lovable, highly imperfect jumble of all the worlds that have been tried.


Here is another take on the movie, specifically from an immigrant-family perspective. The alienation between generations is hardly exclusive to immigrant families—given rapid technological and cultural change, different American generations inhabit different worlds, period—but that tension is ratcheted up a couple of orders of magnitude when the generation gap spans space and language as well as time. (One thing I loved about this movie is the seamless mixture of Chinese and English Evelyn and Waymond speak and, for sure, think in. You overhear countless conversations lie that on the streets of New York.)


  1. Tom Strong said,

    So glad to read this. I enjoyed the movie quite a bit on first viewing – found it hilarious and moving though some of the jokes got a bit stale toward the end. But my affection for it grew substantially after a recent rewatch.

    And at the same time, find it absolutely bizarre that it has emerged as the Oscar favorite. There’s been a seismic shift in what kinds of movies they recognize, and I’m not sure if I like it? Not because they’re choosing worse movies, but because I don’t really want to feel like the Academy is on my side.

  2. lacheraqui said,

    Thank you for your review, Annie; it’s the first one I’ve read that compels me to return to it (I started the other night and dropped out at the ten-minute mark). This is the first year I’ve only seen one of the ten nominees: Elvis. And I struggled through that, too, having worked at RCA Records for the last three years of his life, and having learned too much about him and Col. Parker. I’m sure my resistance to the nominees has to do with the fact that I’m dealing with a life-and-death illness, and I need to be soothed rather than bombarded (Top Gun), confused (EEAAO) or depressed (Banshees, which I really want to see, but have learned now might not be the time for me). I suppose I have much screening to look forward to once I’ve recovered from the major surgery. In the meantime, it’s old comedies for me!

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