Everything Everywhere All at Once

Everything Everywhere All at Once ★★★½

Your clothes never wear as well the next day
And your hair never falls in quite the same way

Offhandedly, Alpha Waymond recites the above lines to Evelyn Wang, causing me to chortle. While I had snickered and laughed at multiple ludicrous moments by that point in Everything Everywhere All at Once, that joke had been tailored for me. You see, the first CD I ever purchased was Nine Days' The Madding Crowd, almost solely because of the single "Absolutely (Story of a Girl)," the song which includes those specific lines. To hear them spoken without any signposting or winking commentary caused confusion at first. Had I just heard correctly? Was I remembering right, did those lyrics come from that song? For a moment I was befuddled like Evelyn when first split between universes. In that instant, the movie seemed to be communicating specifically with me in a personally coded language.

But that's what we all do, right? Put ourselves at the center of the universe? It's exclusively about our problems, our responsibilities, our anxieties, while the rest of the world's problems blur at the periphery. Not only does Evelyn share that dilemma within this film, the notion of multiversal self-importance cascades through nearly every story about quantum mechanics. Because of a Campbell-esque One-ness, the heroes of multiversal narratives are always confronted by doppelgängers familiar to them, as important in other universes' narratives as they are in their own. The emotional arc of Everything Everywhere All at Once comes in the realization that outside of the universe inside our own brains, there are billions of others struggling with similar existential armageddons.

As empathetically macrocosmic as that moral may be, the issue with the film is how it makes it so microcosmic. The culminating cinematic trajectory of DIY(ouTube) films from the beginning of the millennium, whose signature was a no-budget version of the quirky ingenuity of Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry, the Daniels have finally elevated those ephemeral trifles to a critically validated artform that still feels "small" in its construction. The progenitors of contemporary "random" humor, as the kids call it, those YouTube videos have evolved into a two-plus hour feast of randomness (goggly eyes, hotdog hands, fanny pack fights, rock heart-to-hearts, Racacoonies) with the scantest thread of character depth stringing everything (everywhere all at once) together. Besides being about self-absorption, the "random" YouTube lineage the film carries also feels inherently tethered to the multitasking existence of the Internet era. Neo-liberal capitalism requires that we have to be doing all of the things simultaneously, constantly overwhelmed by a swirl of endless information and obligation. Confronted with a torrent of opinions, requests, tasks, likes, follows, news, gifs, memes, comments, media, and a billion other stimulants unendingly we ironically recede further into our personal reactions to that information. That's not just the story of a girl, that's the story of all of us, each a universe unto ourselves brushing up against an infinitude of others.

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