Galvanised: Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022)
*Some spoilers ahead* The movie which you’re not sure has ended. In which rocks chat, make jokes, swear! In which authoritative parents, indeed authority figures, are bad; and kind, gentle fathers heroes. Plus martial arts in the office!
Unexpected, very funny — at time vulgar, the ultimate mash up of genres, garish, literally mind bending, in which life can be obliterated in a baked good or restored through the power of googly eyes.
There is much to enjoy about this movie, although the story might not suggest comedy. An overloaded mother — faces public shame and rejection from her father, her struggling business, failing to pay her taxes, being shamed by her daughter’s life choices, wrangling in her marriage which is heading towards divorce — has a moment of rescue, which she can initiate. In a Tax Office. She is in the multiverse and can hop around her other lives, utilise their powers through crazy things and make the world a better place by defeating the multiverse’s ultimate enemy. Her husband isn’t her husband either, but a universe hopping time traveller… and wait til you meet her daughter and dad. Along the way she gets to experience some of her other lives, talents and successes.
The cinematography and editing in this film is epic! not to say breathtaking as it paces alongside at brake neck speed in a variety of styles… seamlessly. As are the many versions of the daughter — a joyless Joy. I feel like I’ve been exposed to more Kung-Fu than ever before. There are also some nice spoofs — like Ratatouille becomes a chef controlled by a racoon! and the moment when the fighters lose their powers and weakly slap each other! (like the Matrix gone wrong).
The revelatory theme about this movie is the actors — it truly celebrates older actors — especially women, and gives them some decent parts. Jamie Lee Curtis is magnificent in a series of potentially grim and hateful roles, including horrible wigs and saggy bellies — she brings real pathos to the zombie/tax officer who can’t understand why Michelle Yeoh’s character has stapled her forehead or punched her, or the moving rejection to romance of the hot dog hand couple who play piano with their feet! Equally marvellous are Michelle Yeoh as the beleaguered wife/mother Evelyn and Ke Huy Quan as the gentle, romantic Waymond, Evelyn’s husband who loves to dance with a friend or a mop, feels ignored by his wife, loves to cheer things up with googly eyes, enjoys a party and a choir, and cries out for everyone to be kind, to understand.
Whilst the themes of reconciliation and acceptance, of appreciating what and who you have, of parents and children not being harsh and provoking one another are moving; I’m not sure about the love is love is love or individual pleasure being all themes.
Barbarella style (but with added Kung Fu), Michelle Yeoh’s mother character channels the kindness of her husband and gets people enjoying life, and fights back with love. Not sure at all how the sadism/brutalism/masochism fits in with the kindness, understanding and love theme, and the guy with the doll is on one hand silly, but on the other hand could be disturbing — a guy with a child figure…More affecting is the pain of not being seen or heard as expressed by Joy or Evelyn (and Waymund).
It is very, very violent (albeit stylised) — the security guards defeated with a bum bag is very very funny, but they are also having a very, very bad day. Authority figures (police, security, tax officials, parents) are challenged at every level — even the family. Equally violent are the emotions and the spirituality — somewhat Nihilistic, this move encourages love whilst determinedly stating that we are small, insignificant and overwhelmed; small decisions matter, and yet we also don’t matter. Nothing matters, whilst the whole push of the movie in its relationships states that things and people matter very very much! (more than just the random ‘whims’ of the universe). Black Lives Matters and Me Too show us that our forms, our beings, our selves, the way we’re made and what happens to our molecules does matter very, very much — that we aren’t quite the small and insignificant dust balls heading to death that the movie implies, or that all matter is matterless — (though this could be sarcasm or irony!)
An Asian Terry Gilliam or even Woody Allen movie at points — this is a full throttle ride through Disney, Korean drama, Film Noir, multicultural America, James Bond, martial arts, Bollywood/musicals, Science Fiction (Dune/Jupiter Rising-esque moments), literal gross out humour, the Matrix and so much more. A battle with a cake slice and a wooden spoon! and taking Pinky power/pinky wars to a whole new level! Like Parasite or Minari, this isn’t an easy watch (in some ways), but it also speaks to our culture and makes us work hard — with subtitles and some English language dialogue. Importantly it prompts us to consider that people can change (not just get cancelled), and to think about what we do to the people we ‘other’.
While I’m not sure about some of the themes — the movie (for example, never dares to suggest that we need to look outside ourselves if we are going full on Ecclesiastes we are dust and all is meaningless), that nothing matters and we can do what we want.. I wonder how serious is the movie when it says this? Overall, the production does challenge our cancel and fractured cultures — more kindness, fighting hate with love, that the small decisions we make in life matter and that weak men aren’t necessarily weak but gentle, nice heroes with a voice are no bad things!