The day before the Oscars, Everything Everywhere Simultaneously Co-director Daniel Kwan prepared devoted fans for a gentle letdown: “No film is worth scanning,” he wrote on Twitter, “as good as it is.” Yet, Everything scan. She won seven of the 11 awards she was nominated for, including all of the main categories ran inside.
No movie can become that popular without attracting the confusion, suspicion, or even outright rage of people who don’t understand it or look down on it. As Everything comes alongside a months-long campaign for Oscar glory, those feelings have reached a fever pitch. But perhaps the most interesting complaint that some critics have made about the film is that it is too sentimental, so emotionally tidy that it is blank.
Last night’s ceremony, with cast and crew hearty talks and open crying, only underscored the intensity of the film’s emotions, which have carried over into awards season narratives. No recent film coverage would be complete without noting that Ke Huy Quan started acting as a child star but left the industry for decades after finding roles for Asian American men lacking. that this role is his return to Hollywood is essential to the warm and fuzzy feel of the film’s reception. Michelle Yeoh’s awards season is all about overcoming aging. Kwan and co-director Daniel Scheinert’s likability is at least partly down to their unlikely rise, directing crazy music videos like “Rejection for what» to win big prizes. Writing about Daniels’ heartfelt acceptance speech for Best Director, the New Yorker’s Naomi Fry said, “It was something that some people absolutely love and some people absolutely hate.” For Fry, the speech was like the film itself: “heartfelt, but a little heavy with it.”
I’m especially fascinated by the writing of other Asian American reviewers who feel almost obligated to like them Everything, excited and resistant to the support of viewers excited to “feel seen”. I am likewise mistrust of what Inkoo Kang called “the pitfalls of feel-good representation,” but I love the movie, a sci-fi comedy about a Chinese-American family who, though disillusioned with their lives, reject the temptation to escape to other versions of themselves in the multiverse, rather than recommit to each other. I didn’t find the Reddit humor distracting, nor did I find the ending. But the better-articulated objections to the film have made my love for it clear—for me, its so-called sentimentality is not just defensible but necessary.
In the LA Times, film critic Justin Chang expressed his ambivalence for a film that, while exciting and “moving”, makes him more traditional than radical. At its worst, he wrote, it can be considered “a derivative Marvel-adjacent superhero movie in indie drag,” but even at its most vibrant and alive, it “practically does all your feelings for you.” In Letterboxd, author Ian Wang admitted He was “basically crying” at parts of the movie. However, he found the film’s expression of its “core emotional position—that despite the hopelessness and drudgery of everyday life, we can still open our hearts to each other and cherish the love we share—…stagnant [and] them.”
Some of these caveats are specific to the Oscars. Chang noticed this EverythingIts dominance resembles that of last year’s Best Picture winner, CODA, another family drama with a happy ending. Each of these films transcended a nuanced exploration of power and abuse: Tar and The Power of the Dog, respectively. For skeptics, the triumph of his easy feelings warmth and tenderness over darker portraits of human miscommunication is typical of the Oscars’ self-congratulatory mission.
There will always be reasons to be cynical about prizes and the political campaigns they demand, the meta-narratives that turn art itself into a spectacle of cultural context. When the Academy rewards films that feature marginalized communities in deliciously joyful stories, it leverages the cast’s gratitude to create its own legitimacy. It was deeply moving to watch Ke Huy Quan deliver his tearful acceptance speech. Stephanie Hsu was hilarious and adorable to watch scream of happiness for Michelle Yeoh’s historic win, making her the second non-white woman to win the Best Actress award in the Academy’s nearly century of existence. It’s also convenient for the Oscars. Showing the joy of individual winners dispels any suspicion that the Academy should not be the primary arbiter of quality for the entertainment industry, not least because it decided to start reckoning with her racial prejudices this decade.
I take Chang and Wang’s points Everythingits weaknesses — with its constant variety in setting, genre, and even form, it can be frenetic to the point of exhaustion, and its central characters’ climactic reconciliation speeches can feel too grandiose for how little time we’re given to observe them as a family. Although we know that Waymond Wang (Quan) is serving his wife Evelyn (Yeoh) with divorce papers and their daughter Joy (Hsu) is trying in vain to get her mom to accept that she’s gay, the film quickly drifts away from home. drama to open up its sci-fi plot, and the mundane scale of emotions gives way to less grounded galactic events.
Emotional stakes can seem cheap when served on a platter. But, for me, its maximalist plot and unflinching honesty Everything they don’t make sweeping statements about how this family has always been and how this family will always be. They honestly represent the intensity of repressed emotion as it erupts in a one-day race.