When it comes to genres, Everything Everywhere All At Once (EEAAO) is just that — an absurdist comedy, a family drama, a martial arts movie, a science fiction flick, an indie film, a coming-of-age story, a treatise on nihilism, a time travel romance, a millennial parental apology fantasy, and a few animated shorts stuck inside a live action feature.
It’s also an Oscar frontrunner with 11 nominations.
Throughout the 2023 awards season, EEAAO picked up one BAFTA, four Screen Actors Guild Awards, five Critics’ Choice Movie Awards, six Golden Globes, and a record-breaking seven Independent Spirit Awards. If that’s not impressive enough, EEAAO lead Michelle Yeoh is the first Malaysian to receive an Oscar nomination in any category with her Best Actress nod from the Academy.
The recognition is well deserved since the former Miss World Malaysia (1983) and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) star gives her blood, sweat and tears as Evelyn Wang, a Chinese-American immigrant who is battling both the IRS and her gay daughter/multiverse nemesis as well as her own regrets about what she could have been without her mild-mannered and unsuccessful husband.
It’s not unusual to encounter a character like this driving a rom-com or melodrama but filmmakers Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (the Daniels) cleverly plant the complicated, middle-aged mom at the center of their action flick. Consequently, whenever the plot gets a bit confusing or super goofy, it always remains grounded due to Yeoh’s authenticity.
While her Oscar-nominated co-stars (Stephanie Hsu, Ke Huy Quan, and Jamie Lee Curtis) are fine in their respective roles, Yeoh is on another level as she flexes her range, effortlessly shifting from humorous to heart-rending scenes. Both she and veteran actor James Hong (as Evelyn’s Cantonese father) are so skilled at their craft, they don’t even seem like they’re acting. In fact, there’s a segment in the film where the two depict cinematic versions of themselves.
Composer Randy Newman plays off a Pixar reference as he voices Raccacoonie, while the Daniels make cameo appearances in the movie. Behind the scenes, these EEAAO co-writers, co-producers and co-directors prove fresh ideas and a workshopped script can overcome a modest budget.
Initially created for Jackie Chan, the Daniels revised the main part for a woman (presumably with Yeoh in mind). However, Awkwafina was cast instead. Yet when the comedian/rapper had a scheduling conflict, Yeoh was able to replace her. As supporting co-stars in Crazy Rich Asians (2018), both commanded the screen but only Yeoh could elevate EEAAO from being seen as a mere popcorn movie to an Oscar favorite.
Everything Everywhere All At Once can be viewed on streaming platforms. It’s also playing on the big screen at Regal City North, AMC Village Crossing 18, and Cinemark at Seven Bridges and IMAX.
Janet Arvia will discuss Michelle Yeoh’s chances of winning an Academy Award when she and The Arts Section host Gary Zidek make Oscar predictions this Sunday on WDCB radio. Tune in at 8-9 a.m. on 90.9/90.7 FM or listen online at WDCB.org