I will clearly mark when I begin to spoil both of these movies with very long titles, because I think these should both be seen. One in particular, because I think both of these movies tackle similar themes, and one does a much better job of it. But they’re both fun to watch, so I won’t spoil them right away. Everything Everywhere All at Once is especially fun to watch blindly, so if you don’t know anything about it yet, go see it. Don’t read this review. Just watch the movie. Anyway, let’s begin. Also, sorry for the brief hiatus. I got overwhelmed with homework and I’m still kind of overwhelmed with homework, but I had an idea for something to write! So here we are.
Everything Everywhere All at Once was written and directed by Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, who credit themselves as the Daniels when they make their movies. The movie stars Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, Stephanie Hsu, James Hong, and Jamie Lee Curtis. It also features Jenny Slate, Harry Shum Jr., Tallie Medel, and many others. It’s about an Asian woman in her late fifties named Evelyn, who owns and operates a laundromat with her husband Waymond. Her daughter has recently come out to her, which is not something she’s entirely comfortable with. Her father who has never given her any sort of approval is visiting. She’s being audited by the IRS and she has a Chinese New Year party to throw. Her husband wants a divorce because his wife doesn’t look at him anymore, she just brushes him off as a nuisance. Her daughter wants her mom to be a mom and support her during times of uncertainty when she gets afraid, but Evelyn seems unable to do this. Nothing in her life has gone correctly and now she’s having to deal with the misery of being stuck in one place.
In the middle of all of this her husband’s body is inhabited by a version of him from another universe, who tells Evelyn that someone is going across the multiverse destroying everything and killing versions of her, and she’s the only one who can stop it all. And it just escalates from there. This is sort of a weird movie because it’s constantly switching genres and there’s always something going on. There is no movie in recent history that I’ve seen that has such an accurate title. So in that respect, this isn’t for everyone. Because everything in this movie is indeed happening everywhere, all at once. It starts out as a family drama and then becomes an action movie, then a thriller, and then a balls to the wall sci-fi movie. At one point Jamie Lee Curtis and Michelle Yeoh have hot dog fingers. The movie is super weird with lots of dumb jokes, but a beautiful emotional heart at the center of it all. It’s been out for about a month now, and I saw it a while ago, but I knew I wanted to talk about this and needed time to think about what I wanted to say. And lo and behold, another movie came along that covers similar topics and allows me to talk about both films at once.
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent was written by Tom Gormican and Kevin Etten, and directed by Tom Gormican. It stars Nicolas Cage, Pedro Pascal, Tiffany Haddish, Ike Barinholtz, Sharon Horgan, Lily Mo Sheen, and Neil Patrick Harris. The concept of this movie is so good, that the movie itself is incapable of living up to it. Nicolas Cage has always been viewed as a larger than life insane man, and this movie tries to tap into that. Nick Cage plays beloved actor Nick Cage, who is struggling with finding the next role and maintaining relevance in a Hollywood that has no place for him to make the films he wants to make. He’s been living in a swanky hotel for over a year, following the separation of him and his wife. His daughter has spent years trying to get her dad to notice her, and has gotten sick and tired of his obsession with films. At one point she tells him that he’s just trying to mold her into another version of him. Ouch. After getting turned down for a part he really wanted, Nick is asked to attend the Birthday party of reclusive billionaire Javi, a massive Nick Cage fan. The job pays $1 million, and since he’s been hemorrhaging money and has nothing left, Nick accepts.
When he initially meets Javi, Nick Cage is reluctant to play along and insistent on quitting acting. But the two of them quickly become best friends. Nick Cage is then kidnapped by the CIA and informed that Javi is the head of a drug empire and has kidnapped the daughter of a nearby president in order to rig an upcoming election. So Nick has to help the CIA get incriminating information on Javi and find the girl, while also struggling with the love he has for his new friend. This movie, kind of like Everything Everywhere All at Once, also feels like many movies in one. But not in a good way. Both movies act as tributes to the careers of their main actors(Michelle Yeoh and Nick Cage respectively), while also covering themes of intergenerational trauma and familial conflict. One movie is incredibly complicated and full of gags and weird moments. One movie is very simple. Both seem to be aware of what they are, and the filmmakers of both movies go out of their way to show the audience that this is the case. But when The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent does this, it comes across as an apology that the movie isn’t what it could be.
Before I get into spoilers, I’ll say this. I enjoyed both movies. Everything Everywhere All At Once is a game-changing film that deserves many awards. It does so many things you’d never expect to see in a movie, and sticks the landing effortlessly. The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is a fun and mostly forgettable movie about a very weird man, and it could have been so much more. The Daniels paid tribute to Michelle Yeoh by giving her the role of a lifetime and paying homage to her other beloved films throughout. Tom Gormican did not give Nick Cage the role of a lifetime. I am not a big Nick Cage fan, but I imagine the appeal of this movie for those who are would be to see Nick Cage go insane. And he doesn’t really do that. All references to his past roles are either props from old films that make you go “Hey look, it’s a thing from that thing!” or someone just name drops a movie he was in. There isn’t any of the high-octane explosion-fueled action from Face/Off or Con Air. It’s a Nick Cage movie about Nick Cage, but without any of the joy and insanity and weirdness that makes all of his movies instant classics. But whenever he’s interacting with Pedro Pascal, none of that really matters. Because the bromance those two share is truly beautiful. And there are good jokes and moments too. I’m just overly critical. Anyway, SPOILER TIME!!!
YOU KNOW THE DRILL. GET OUT UNLESS YOU WANT THE MOVIE SPOILED.
SPOILERS ARE COMING AT YOU.
The reason I paired these two movies together is because I wanted to explore the familial relationships in both films and how they were handled. Because in Everything Everywhere All At Once, the relationships between Evelyn, Waymond, and Joy are the core of the movie. All the insanity revolves around them. Whereas in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, it seemed like an afterthought, or an addition late in the game due to studio intervention. But I’ll get into it. This is my first post that could be called film analysis, so we’ll see how I do. Also, the titles of these movies are really long, so from now on I’ll just refer to them as the Michelle Yeoh movie and the Nick Cage movie.
The Rest of the Plot of the Michelle Yeoh Movie
While speaking to her IRS agent, Deirdre Beaubeirdra(Jamie Lee Curtis), Evelyn’s consciousness is brought to an in-between universe by her husband, whose body is being inhabited by Alpha Waymond. Alpha Waymond is from the main universe, and he reveals that Alpha Evelyn is the one who discovered how to transmit the consciousness of a being into another version of themself from another universe. She figured out how to do this by experimenting on her daughter, thereby untethering her daughter from that universe. So her daughter has become aware of all universes at once, and is unable to live a life in any of them. She can’t die or escape. She’s just doomed to spend eternity bouncing from form to form. And she can’t ever focus on one version of herself at a time, because the other versions will go into autopilot and lead miserable and unfulfilling lives. She’s also decided to call herself Jobu Tupaki. Alpha Waymond believes that she’s been going throughout the multiverse killing Evelyns in an attempt to destroy all of existence, when in actuality, she’s been trying to find a version of her mother who can give her a reason as to why she shouldn’t just end it all.
Jobu Tupaki reveals early on that she’s created this black hole that she calls the bagel. One day she was trying to find meaning in the universe, and so she put everything in existence on a bagel and it created some sort of vortex? This bit is confusing. It’s kind of a silly movie. And if she walks through it she’ll die. And part of her doesn’t want to do this. She wants to be released from her pain, but she’s hoping some version of her mother will apologize and be there for her and tell her it’s all going to be okay. And the Evelyn that we meet at the beginning is kind of the last person who should be trying to convince Jobu Tupaki that life is worth living, because she’s done absolutely nothing with her life. She’s ready to give up on her universe and live as any number of different Evelyns on a whim. She’s so angry that her life didn’t turn out the way she wanted, and she’s fully prepared to fire back at anyone with all the self-hatred and bile she’s stored up over the years.
But through seeing her other selves and talking to other versions of her husband, she realizes that she found the one man in the universe who loves her no matter who she is or what she does. There’s a version of Evelyn that became a rich and famous action movie star, and is essentially just Michelle Yeoh in real life. This version of Evelyn stayed with her father instead of movie to America with Waymond. And after the premiere of one of her movies she talks to Waymond, who has become rich. And she tells him, because she’s aware of all the universes at this point, that if she had gone with him, they would have spent their lives at a laundromat, poor and unhappy. And he tells her that he would have loved nothing more than to spend the rest of his life at a laundromat with her. Because they would have been together. This is when she realizes that no other universe really matters, because she’s with the people that she loves. And she’s finally able to convince Jobu Tupaki to stay, because the only thing that matters is being together. I probably didn’t describe it well. But it’s a beautiful movie and I’ll talk more about it in a bit. The jokes, too.
The Rest of the Plot of the Nick Cage Movie
Javi(Pedro Pascal) and Nick Cage(Nick Cage) hang out on the island and drink and do stupid things until Javi’s birthday party, when the CIA have Nick Cage steal data from a secret room Javi has. They then ask him to come up with a reason to stay on the island longer so he can locate the girl, because she doesn’t show up on any of the security cameras, but they know she’s somewhere. So Nick Cage announces that he’ll be writing a movie with Javi. Because Javi wrote a screenplay for Nick Cage to star in, but he decides to say that he likes it, but he won’t star in it, and they should write one instead. So the next day he goes to look for the girl, but is ambushed by Javi, who insists that they do acid and think of ideas together. What follows is the best part of the movie. The two of them run around like idiots for probably twenty minutes of the movie and it’s hilarious and this should’ve been the whole movie. Then Vivian(Tiffany Haddish) suggests that Nick float the idea of having a girl get kidnapped in the script. So Javi might accidentally give up a clue as to where the girl might be. There are some funny moments between Nick and Tiffany where she tries to get him to do something and he keeps saying no, and then she rephrases it in acting terms and he does it.
Javi had already said that the movie should be about them, and that they should make a cerebral movie about two guys just hanging out and talking and doing whatever. So when Nick suggests they add a kidnapping for the two of them to stop, Javi gets upset and says it’ll ruin the movie. Nick tries to make an excuse and says that Hollywood these days only care about blockbusters, and they can’t make a movie like this anymore. Javi misunderstands Nick’s insistence to include the kidnapping plot as being his way of working on his guilt for not being there for his daughter. So Javi has his wife and daughter fly over, thinking that Nick is sick, in order to resolve all of this. Nick assumes Javi means to kill all three of them. But it is soon revealed to the audience that Javi is merely a figurehead for his cousin, who is really running the cartel operation. His cousin kidnapped the girl in order to put himself in control of the local government. And his cousin wants Javi to kill Nick Cage.
At this point I thought to myself “They’ve already told us how the movie will end. It’s going to turn into a high-octane action movie and Javi and Nick Cage or going to rescue the kidnapped girl and save the day.” And I was correct. That is more or less what happens. But there’s no high octane action. Just some boring car chases that culminate in Nick Cage taking down the evil cousin at the American embassy. And the actresses playing the wife and daughter change mid-scene and you think “What just happened?” and it’s revealed that we’re now watching the movie version of everything that happened at a premier, and everyone loves Nick Cage again, including his wife and daughter. And the movie ends happily ever after.
So now I’m going to focus on the similarities between these two films, which couldn’t be less alike on paper, but in actuality aren’t that different. And I’m going to talk about why Everything Everywhere All at Once is a confusing movie that knows what it is, and The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is a confused movie that doesn’t.
Where the Two Overlap
Both Evelyn and Nick are in their late fifties and have become disillusioned with life in general. They both have strained relationships with their families and want something more than what they have.
Both movies are meant as loving tributes to the respective leading actors.
And both movies are meant as redemptive arcs for the main characters, with Evelyn accepting her lot in life and Nick reconciling with the fact that he can’t be the insane and gung-ho guy he used to be anymore.
Why One Succeeds Where The Other Doesn’t
I think by the very nature of having Nick Cage play himself, they saddled their film with expectations that are impossible to live up to. Nick Cage is seen as a mythic Hollywood figure, and the only real way to pay tribute to everything he’s done is to try and outdo every other insane movie he’s ever done. And that scene where they talk about how they want the movie to just be about Nick and Javi running around and acting like idiots, but Hollywood would never let them? At the end of the movie it almost seems like an apology. Because the best moments of the movie are when Nick Cage and Javi are playing off each other and just acting like idiots. The wife and daughter are barely essential to the story. They disappear for most of the movie and nobody notices until they’re brought back in just so Nick’s daughter can also get kidnapped. It’s like the filmmakers wanted to make three different movies:
1. Nick Cage getting recruited by the CIA to actually do some of the stuff he does in movies.
2. Nick Cage rediscovering his career with the help of a huge Nick Cage fan.
3. Nick Cage has to patch things up with his family and learn how to be less intense.
And they threw all of these together. Now don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed this movie and will rewatch it when it hits streaming so I can relive all the great scenes of him and Pedro Pascal. But they tried to do too much and lost sight of who was at the center of the movie. It would’ve been better if they went weirder with it all. Or if they didn’t focus on it being about Nick Cage, but it being the ultimate Nick Cage movie.
The Michelle Yeoh movie works better in my eyes because it had that clearly defined emotional core at the center of it all. And once they established the characters and their struggles, they sent them on a really weird ride of a film. There are so many funny and weird jokes in this movie. At one point Evelyn is trying to explain how people from one universe can inhabit bodies of their counterparts and she says it’s like the movie “Raccoontouille”. The joke, of course, is that she mistakes Ratatouille for a nonexistent movie about a raccoon who becomes a chef by using a man as a puppet. But then later she shows up in a universe where she’s a sous chef, and one of her coworkers is being puppeted by a raccoon. I don’t know why that joke is in the movie. It doesn’t need to be. But it’s fucking hilarious. So I guess the main reason I preferred Everything Everywhere All at Once is because I had no idea what to expect, and was awarded with an insane, funny, heartfelt movie. And with The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, I expected insanity and was left wanting. Although he does make out with himself at one point. Also, Neil Patrick Harris, one of the funniest and coolest people in the world is in the Nick Cage movie. Is he given anything funny to do? Not at all. Did he need to be in this movie? No he did not. Am I a little sad that one of my favorite actors was wasted in a bit part playing Nick Cage’s agent? Yes I am.
The point is if you don’t care that I just spoiled these movies, go watch them both. Again, I’m overly critical and thus had some negative things to say about the Nick Cage movie. But it’s still an okay movie.
The MVP of an Already Excellent Film: Ke Huy Quan, who plays Evelyn’s husband in Everything Everywhere All at Once, also played Short Round in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Data in The Goonies. Short Round was and is one of my favorite characters of all time, so I was glad to see him back in this. It turns out nobody wanted to hire him back then because he was Asian, so he stopped acting after a while and did behind the scenes stuff in movies overseas. Then he watched Crazy Rich Asians and thought “I wish I was in this”. So he called an agent friend of his and asked him to rep him. Two weeks later he got the call to audition for this movie. If you’ve seen it, then you know he’s fucking incredible and he should’ve been acting this entire time. Long live this amazing man.
Overall Rating For Everything Everywhere All at Once: 9.5/10(Watch this movie. I cannot stress that everybody should watch this movie. There’s a fantastic action sequence with a fanny pack. That alone should get you to watch this. WATCH IT!)
Overall Rating For The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent: 7/10(I may have had a lot of negative things to say, but I still liked it. There’s an ongoing joke about Paddington 2 being one of the best movies ever made. I’ve seen Paddington 2. It definitely is one of the best movies ever made.)
I don’t know if this was any good, but I thought I’d try to analyze a couple films at once. I hope it isn’t terrible. Next week I plan to finally release the Anchorman Ruddtrospective, as well as a post looking at my love for a comedian I recently saw live, and why his jokes mean so much to me. I hope you enjoyed this, and thank you for reading!