How “Everything Everywhere All At Once” Went From Oddball Indie Flick to Big-Time Oscar Winner
The eccentric and charming movie won seven Oscar awards.
A film that really has everything, everywhere, all at once, and then some!
It’s safe to say that this breathtaking A24 production has captivated audiences like no other, leaving a trail of multiple Oscar awards and box office triumphs in its wake, while also inspiring its fair share of memes, reactions, and reenactments.
Nobody ever expected the indie gem, Everything Everywhere All at Once to make such a cultural impact within such a short period. After all, it’s a movie chronicling the ups and downs of an Asian-American family against the backdrop of multiverses, existentialism and kung-fu action.
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But its absurd wackiness underpins a message of hope and kindness, which makes it special.
Everything Everywhere All At Once‘s success at the Oscars calls for a closer examination of its underdog tale and how it gradually ascended to widespread recognition.
The film took home seven Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Editing, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Supporting Actress — almost everything (wink wink).
The recent achievement reminds us that every creative idea has its payoff, and you have to keep hoping that your time to shine will arrive sooner rather than later.
The 12-Year Process To Turn a Half-Baked Idea Into a Reality
What’s so incredible about this movie is that the directors and screenwriters at the helm of this extravaganza, Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, ruminated on their out-of-the-world concept for nearly 12 years. Nothing extraordinary takes a second; in fact, it can take years of ideation, calculation, revision, and collaboration. “
And so it’s a very organic process. We never know where our ideas start and when they end, really. It’s about the accumulation, that snowball effect that a single idea can have sometimes,” Kwan told Deadline recently.
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Before EEAAO, their filmography included the music video for “Turn Down For What” and the Daniel Radcliffe-led black comedy Swiss Army Man. So, it goes without saying that the unforeseen triumph of their latest venture surpassed their wildest expectations.
Speaking about how the film was received at the SXSW festival in March 2022, Scheinert says, “The reception still humbled us and freaked us out. And it was the first time we got a taste of just how much people resonated with the emotional side of the movie, not just the action.”
What grounds the emotional basis of the narrative is Michelle Yeoh’s career-defining performance as Evelyn Wang: a frazzled, overwhelmed laundromat owner going through the wringer on all fronts. Not only is she facing an IRS investigation into her business, but her relationship with her daughter is strained and her marriage is on the brink of collapse.
Adding to her troubles, she is currently being pursued by an elusive villain who wields influence over parallel universes. Obviously, the narrative is intricate and multi-faceted and quite a bit surreal, but, according to the Daniels, there is a truth holding together all the motions — that is, the generational gap between Evelyn and her daughter Joy.
The Unprecedented Box Office Success & Why It Matters for Asian-Americans
The status quo rarely positions middle-aged women as the center of the action, much less middle-aged Asian women. However, the Daniels had known from the beginning they would focus on this demographic as their driving force. “We always knew the film was going to be about generations, that gap that happens with every generation, because it felt like a really perfect way to explore the multiverse…” says Kwan.
Thankfully, their labor of love astounded people across the board, garnering widespread recognition from both the masses and the critics. It grossed more than $107 million globally, making it A24’s top-grossing movie of all time, and the first to exceed the $100 million milestone, surpassing Hereditary (2018).
IGN reported that the film recently earned the distinction of being the most-awarded film of all time. So far it has received a total of 156 accolades from leading critics’ groups and award organizations, including nominations and wins for the ensemble cast featuring Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, Stephanie Hsu, and Jamie Lee Curtis.
A Pop Culture Phenomenon Amidst a Sea of Unoriginal, Formulaic Franchises
There is no doubt that Everything Everywhere All At Once has become a cultural phenomenon — an endeavor so exceptional in scale that it will be revered and commemorated in the years to come. But the question remains as to how such a bonkers, offbeat idea from an indie creative team turned into an award-season juggernaut competing against the likes of studio franchises and traditional Oscar ‘bait.’
Well, it seems that there is a lot of power in the word of mouth. With the movie industry saturated by well-known superhero spectacles, it’s frankly refreshing to watch a movie that’s about original characters in an original universe deploying original thematic elements to drive story and character development.
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There is also the case of the COVID-19 pandemic impacting what viewers are finding engaging and relatable. The chain of events portrayed in the movie comes from a place of self-reflection and the decisions we make, which shape us into the person we are today. The film also encompasses themes of infinite universes, all of which are determined by the paths we take.
Though this has been explored before in cinema, Everything Everything All At Once turns the trope on its head and treads upon entire new territory with its motifs of everything bagels, buttplugs, hot dog fingers, and the truly unpredictable.
How EEAAO Changed The Lives Of Its Central Cast
Finally, the film must receive credit for rejuvenating the careers of the parties involved. Before the movie’s release, perhaps only Jamie Lee Curtis among the cast could realistically be called ‘superstar.’ But over the past year, Yeoh, Hsu, and Huy Quan have been catapulted into stardom and shown no signs of slowing down.
When asked about the success of EEAAO, Yeoh says, “What I found so beautiful was, [the movie] was giving a voice to a very ordinary woman, aging immigrant woman, who’s never really had a voice before,” Meanwhile, Huy Quan has just been grateful for the opportunity to get back on the screen, since he’d well and truly believed that his days as an actor were behind him. “It was a role that I thought was written for me, and I was just so excited […] I felt whatever that was missing all those years. … All of a sudden I felt like I was back where I needed to be,” he told NPR.
Everything Everywhere All At Once’s Oscar glory is an example of working harder as well as smarter for your dreams. It only takes one project to transform everyone’s lives around and propel them toward victory, and that’s exactly what the Daniels managed to do for the EEAAO cast and the crew. Sometimes you don’t need big bucks or powerful connections to make magic happen; all you need is an innovative idea that comes from within, something that’s not masked by ulterior motives or greed or money. It’s about making a connection with someone else and introducing them to a weird, wild, and wonderful world.