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  • Writer's picturezandaleeindigo

How the Daniels Use Absurdity to Tell Universal Stories

Updated: Apr 19, 2022

This past weekend I got the chance to see Everything Everywhere All At Once, and I'm deciding to make it everyone's problem.

Some people may or may not know, but Swiss Army Man is one of my favorite movies of all time. It's my most logged movie on Letterboxd (eight times!) and the soundtrack is on a monthly rotation of albums I listen to (I'm listening to montage as I'm typing this post).

I love the film for a multitude of reasons. First the casting, it's rare I find a movie with Paul Dano in it I don't immediately love-----the man knows how to pick a project. On top of that, the quirks within the film, the innovative score that is mostly sung by the stars Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe, the humor of course. But more than anything I love the themes and story that the movies tells.

It's one of love. Of loneliness. Of finding a purpose, a reason to live. The movie follows our protagonist Hank, a lonely man who ran away from home and found himself stranded on an island. The film opens on Hank, on the island getting ready to end his life. That is until a corpse, played by Radcliffe washes up on the shore and Hank, hoping this might be a person that can help him home decides to stick around. The duo end up making their way back to the mainland and the rest of the film follows them on their journey home.

The film is absolutely absurd with the corpse reanimating and being given the name Manny. As the two navigate the forest toward civilization, Manny uses a special set of skills he possesses to aid Hank (hence the name of the movie) and Hank teaches Manny about what it means to be human. As the two get closer and closer to home Manny becomes more and more alive and the bond between the two men grows stronger. It's a story about finding joy in the small things in life and finding love in unexpected places punctuated with fart jokes and Hank using Manny's boner as a compass to get home. I cry every time I watch it.

One of my favorite kisses in any movie ever <3

So, loving Swiss Army Man as much as I do you can imagine how excited I was hearing the Daniels were releasing a new film this year. I avoided as much information about the content of Everything Everywhere All At Once before viewing it purposefully. Although I remembered Swiss Army Man's trailer didn't necessarily give away the plot I was going to take no chances.

Then the film released and blew up. I saw people praising it across social media, many people who's opinions I respected and generally always agreed with were remarking at how emotional it made them. And I'm a crybaby when it comes to movies (see the long list of things I've cried at here) and knew I was in for something that would be a heavy hitter when I inevitably saw it. And I was absolutely right.

Everything Everywhere All At Once traces the same path Swiss Army Man laid while also being completely new and different. The film covers a lot of the same ground, themes of loneliness and love at the core of it, but also weaves in things like depression and strained family relationships. Overall, the film really gets at what it means to be human, and manages to tell a story that audiences across the board could see themselves represented in. Not to mention the stellar cast, fun effects, and quirky costumes.

Stephanie Hsu was a particular standout! Her performance was everything.

I keep coming across reviews of this movie appreciating it for how "fresh" it is and I think that's the perfect word for both of the Daniels' films. I admire their creativity in the story element of both the movies as well as the way they so seamlessly weave comedy into every scene----there was no way I should be sobbing about farting and hot dog hands but they managed to make it happen. It's an art and they have truly perfected it.

I'm being intentionally vague about Everything Everywhere because I want to urge anyone reading to go see the movie themselves, it's a masterpiece. Both Daniels films are a strong middle finger to the nihilism that dominates our culture at times and a call for all of us to appreciate the small things in life and to approach everyday with love and I think that's such a beautiful message. I cannot wait to see what they do next.

They also paid homage to so many amazing movies, I can't get enough of the scenes inspired by "In the Mood for Love."

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Apr 19, 2022

Dang! I'm LOVING the Elvis getup that Hsu is wearing in this post! Swiss Army Man wasn't the worst, so we MIGHT have to take you up on your offer and check THIS movie out! Again, thanks for opening the window into your world. :)

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