Anyone frozen to the bone today in Austin, TX from the 39-degree, piercing wind weather could find all the heat inside the Paramount Theatre as A24’s Daniels’ AGBO movie Everything Everywhere All at Once brought moviegoing roaring back to the first SXSW in three years.
The amour for the return of the big screen experience after the pandemic by the loyal, cinephile crowd here, coupled with a rollicking, non-stop martial arts 2 1/2 hour movie triggered non-stop cheers, laughs, and standing ovations that rocked the Paramount Theatre to its foundation, reminiscent of when Paramount teed off the Texas festival with A Quiet Place in 2018.
It all started the minute, Janet Pierson, VP, Director of Film at SXSW, took the stage tonight to welcome everyone back after a three year hiatus and continued through the 2 hour 12 minute movie, well into the cast and filmmakers’ Q&A.
“I’m so rusty,” Pierson said in the middle of rattling off some house policies; a moment which drew warm cheers from the shoulder-to-shoulder audience.
“It’s so exciting to see you hear, you’re in for the treat of a lifetime,” said Pierson, “this is an amazing moment and we get to enjoy an incredible movie here at the Paramount.”
Earlier at the SXSW Deadline studio, Everything Everywhere All at Once star Jamie Lee Curtis exclaimed, “This movie is going to mess with your brains!” No kidding.
Indeed, a zany ride about an aging, IRS-strapped Chinese immigrant matriarch and laundromat proprietor (Michelle Yeoh) who is scraping to get by with her sensitive husband (Ke Huy Quan) amid a stale marriage, and her rebellious daughter, Eleanor, (Stephanie Hsu), who she’s long been tough on; not unlike her wheelchair bounded father (James Hong). However, as her husband proves, their lives aren’t linear, rather one that’s part of a multiverse of fisticuffs, zany costumes, a world in which some of the everyday folks around them are enemies, including Hong’s character and Eleanor, who are something of ruling antagonists in parallel worlds. And that’s keeping the plot concise. It’s Brazil, meets The Matrix, meets John Woo, with a dash of what could best be explained as ‘Being Michelle Yeoh’ thrown in.
Directors Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert were asked after the credits rolled about their inspirations for the trippy family action feature which they made two years ago.
“That’s a terrible Q&A question,” joked Kwan, “because it’s going to take three hours to answer.”
Scheinert answered, “We use to do a lot of music videos and got rejected a lot, and we had all these leftover ideas, so we said, let’s make a movie with everything in it, so we can use all those things that Rihanna said ‘No’ to.”
Kwan added that as the filmmakers amassed a crew of friends over the decade, it pointed them in the direction to take on an ambitious feature such as Everything Everywhere All at Once.
“We wrote a part that no one on Earth could play, but Michelle Yeoh,” said Scheinert, “She said ‘yes’ which made the movie so much easier to get made.”
“She has a gravity that pulls people in, there was so much momentum from her saying ‘Yes’,” added Kwan.
The pic features a star-making role by Hsu (known for Mei on season 3 & 4 of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) (“Thank God, I’m not competing with her for anything, what an incredible talent” complimented Yeoh), but also a grown-up Quan who many will recognize from his childhood 1980s roles in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and The Goonies. Exclaimed Yeoh to him, “Thank you for coming back after 20 years!” which drew big applause. “You’re never going away again!” said Yeoh.
“By the way, I had to pee really badly after this movie,” said Kwan to laughs from the stage. “At the men’s room, there was a really long line. Thank you for letting me cut. Big shoutout to everyone who waited until after the movie to pee.”
The pic reps the Daniels’ first feature festival reteam since 2016’s Swiss Army Man at Sundance. A24 has tapped SXSW before to create heat for their niche hits, i.e. the 2015 North American premiere of Ex Machina and the U.S. premiere of the 2012 Harmony Korine femme heist feature Spring Breakers.
Everything Everywhere All at Once opens limited in theaters on March 25. However, after the enthusiastic response from the crowd at the Paramount, don’t be surprised if this Daniels-Russo Brothers production goes wide.
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