Last year, A24’s multiversal phenomenon, Everything Everywhere All at Once, took the film industry and moviegoers by storm. Critics and audiences alike ranted and raved about the charming and deeply unusual film directed by the Daniels. Taking the concept of the multiverse to a whole new level, EEAAO has already anchored its spot in pop culture and defined itself as one of the most important films to debut in 2022. The praise for this movie has continued well after its initial theatrical release, and rightfully so. The film has pushed boundaries and opened doors in Hollywood.
EEAAO centers around an aging Chinese-American woman whose family owns and operates a failing laundromat. Racked with debt to the IRS, a complicated relationship with her daughter, and a husband who feels divorce is the best option for them, Evelyn Wang is on the verge of a breakdown. On her way to a meeting with a grumpy IRS auditor named Deirdre (Jamie Lee Curtis) to consolidate her debt, Evelyn is stopped in the elevator by what appears to be an alternate, more confident version of her husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan). From that moment on, Evelyn’s life is upended by the ability to travel to different branch realities displaying other routes her life could have taken. She embarks on an insane journey through the multiverse to obtain the necessary skills from the alternate versions of herself in order to get her life back on track and protect her family.
With multiverses being a hot topic in the film industry right now, EEAAO really pushes that concept to new bounds. The execution might seem bizarre on the surface, but it goes deeper than just time-jumping and creating strange realities. It has also introduced both audiences and people in the industry to different types of characters and people that can lead a movie. The staggering 11 Oscar nominations that the film has received have shown the Academy that movies about people from all different walks of life are necessary and that people can relate to the characters in these movies. Audiences are interested in movies where they can both escape from their real-life problems and find things in common with the characters on the screen in front of them. Let’s delve into the reasons why EEAAO‘s 11 Oscar nominations are important.
In Hollywood, it can be very difficult for women past a certain age to land roles that are meaningful and actually challenge them. Women often secure their most exciting and interesting roles when they are in their twenties, possibly their thirties. Once a woman is past those age groups, the roles start to become scarce. Or, the majority of the roles coming in are to play mothers and wives, and these roles are typically not the leading part. Men on the other hand frequently get cast as the leading man in movies well into their 60s and 70s. Harrison Ford is 80 years old and will be leading another Indiana Jones movie later this year. We hardly ever see a woman of that age leading any genre of movie.
Michelle Yeoh is 60 years old and played a character roughly the same age in EEAAO. A middle-aged woman played by a middle-aged woman led the movie. Even now, it’s not common to see a woman of any age lead an action or adventure movie, but Yeoh and EEAAO have changed the gender mold for what types of roles women can take on at any stage of life with her Best Actress Oscar nomination.
It is no secret that over the years Hollywood has struggled to include actors of all different backgrounds in their movies. Non-white people have been overlooked and overshadowed for decades, and it is really only since the ’80s that actors of color have been able to take on more roles, and even more recently that serious, impactful roles have been offered to non-white actors. Asian actors in particular have struggled to obtain work in Hollywood, often being reduced to sidekicks or caricatures of Asian stereotypes. It wasn’t until Crazy Rich Asians came out in 2018, the industry finally started to seriously pay attention to talented Asian actors.
EEAAO has earned four acting nominations at this year’s Academy Awards ceremony, and three of them are for Asian actors. Michelle Yeoh was nominated for Best Actress, Ke Huy Quan for Best Actor, and Stephanie Hsu for Best Supporting Actress. While it’s uncertain if Hsu will actually win Best Actress, both Yeoh and Quan are strong contenders for their respective categories, especially considering they each won those awards at the Golden Globes this year as well. Both Yeoh and Quan have been praised for their roles, so the likelihood of them winning is high. Yeoh has become the first Asian actress nominated for Best Actress, so if she does win, she will be the first Asian actress to have won the prestigious award.
The Academy has become both picky and predictable with the movies they deem worthy enough to be nominated for the coveted Best Picture award. Academy members are generally attracted to biopics, war films, and films about art, specifically about the art of cinema. The Academy has deviated here and there over the years, but generally, they are looking for the types of films they are used to.
EEAAO’s Best Picture nomination is incredible because it is so out of their comfort zone. This is a peculiar movie that has its protagonist travel through the multiverse to learn from other versions of herself so that she can stop an alternate version of her daughter who ultimately wants to stop existing because she can feel every reality happening all the time. At its core, the movie is truly about the complexities of the mother-daughter relationship and how a good mother will do anything for her children, but the outward execution is utterly bizarre. Her daughter, when she’s Jobu Tupaki, puts all realities on an everything bagel because the burden of experiencing everything is too much for one person. The concepts and ideas in EEAAO are strange yet heartfelt, and it’s about time the Academy recognizes a film that is outside their own personal niche.