Everything Everywhere All At Once is an otherwise hysterical sci-fi action adventure but reduces a character to an antisemitic stereotype.
I’ll get to the antisemitic stereotype in a few. Take this away from the film and it’s very entertaining. There are moments in the film that had me falling out of my chair from laughter. I’m talking about the uncontrollable laughter where you have to stop yourself. This speaks to how funny it is. Hot dogs for fingers with both ketchup and mustard! A fight with dildos! Raccacoonie! I mean, how can you not lose yourself in laughter during moments like this?!? Meanwhile, film lovers will spot easter eggs to films such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, In the Mood For Love, Ratatouille, and more.
Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan get to kick some ass on screen in a film about–what else–audits. Yes, that’s the same Ke Huy Quan from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. This film marks his return to the screen for the first time in about two decades and he doesn’t miss an opportunity. The main focus of the film is Evelyn’s (Michelle Yeoh) relationship with her queer daughter, Joy (Stephanie Hsu). Well, when Evelyn is not worrying about expanding the laundromat business and dealing with IRS agent Deirdre Beaubeirdra (Jamie Lee Curtis). Depending on which universe we’re in, Deirdre is either an antagonist or Evelyn’s lover. The first sign that something is up is during a scene in an elevator at the IRS where Waymond Wang (Ke Huy Quan) is taken over by one of his counterparts by verse-jumping.
Comedically speaking, there are a lot of things about this film that work. There are no shortage of funny moments. It’s a bit long with a run time of just under two and a half hours. In fact, there’s a fake ending but you’ll understand it when you watch the film. Multiverse movies and series are certainly in at the moment. It is for the best to not think too much about the sci-fi aspect because it’ll make your brain hurt. The film works the best when you’re also invested in the characters and we are. Meanwhile, there are aspects in the film that remind me of The Matrix movies. What is real and what is not? Which universe is the primary universe? It is hard to tell with how the film ends because it feels like there are multiple endings.
I don’t like having to point out antisemitism in a movie. Filmmakers need to stop defining Jewish people by the size of our noses. Jenny Slate’s character is named Big Nose. I do not know if co-director/writer Daniel Scheinert is Jewish but this is just inexcusable. Hollywood needs to stop defining Jews this way because it is insulting and downright antisemitic. In looking over the press notes, there are no other characters who get a nickname in such a manner. The context is that Evelyn keeps referring to Jenny Slate as Big Nose, defining her by her nose size. Jewish noses have been a hostile caricature dating back to the 13th century and continuing ethnic stereotype to this day. It is true that many Jews have adopted large noses as a part of their ethnic identity but it is still no excuse for filmmakers to play on it.
Jewish women are beautiful but one’s nose size should not be the defining characteristic. How many times do I have to stress this? Jenny Slate’s nose is being used in this film in an antagonistic manner, far from the way in which Alana Haim is treated in Licorice Pizza. Filmmakers need to do better and stop reducing people to ethnic stereotypes. Come on!!
I should not have to spend this many paragraphs discussing the antisemitism within a sci-fi action adventure. It’s unfortunate because this is a film that came with high expectations. It’s an A24 film for Pete’s sake! The studio should know better or is this a case like the Academy Museum where they thought it would be immune to such criticism when it comes to Jews? I don’t see anyone else in this film being insulted in such a matter because of their ethnic identity. There’s body shaming but it’s only when a mother tells her daughter to eat healthy.
Everything Everywhere All At Once is highly entertaining but it would have been better if it did not reduce a Jewish woman to her nose size. My rating would be higher if not for this aspect of the film. It’s what prevents Everything Everywhere All At Once from being a great film or maybe even a masterpiece. For now, it’s a mostly good film that suffers from antisemitic stereotypes. This is just inexcusable.
EDIT: Inverse has an interview with the filmmakers where they discuss Jenny Slate’s character.
Jenny Slate plays a character named “Big Nose.” What was her role all about?
DAN SCHEINERT: Part of the joke is that Evelyn is mean and wrong in that moment.
DAN KWAN: The beginning is filled with slights — weird, sometimes racist, kind of mean. It’s the kind of thing that happens when a bunch of people exists together. So at the beginning, [Michelle Yeoh] calls her “big nose” in Chinese, but she’s nice to her in English. I find it very interesting when worlds collide. The movie becomes a movie about fully understanding everyone.
If their plan was to joke about Jewish noses, it’s an epic fail. It’s nothing more than reducing Jews down to our nose size and that is antisemitism. Listen, I would be just as outraged if it were a Jewish family saying something racist in Yiddish or Hebrew about another ethnicity. It’s not funny.
EDIT (May 12): I read the Digital Spy interview with the Daniels on May 4 with great interest. I’m glad that they spoke in-depth with a journalist and understand where they went wrong. While the slur was a clear sucker punch during the screening (especially with all the hype), what really through me for a curve was how they didn’t even bother to come up with an actual name. In reading this interview, they announced that they would change the name for the home release. If they had given Jenny Slate’s character an actual name during the theatrical release, I don’t think I would have been anywhere near as upset as I was when I saw the credits show up. It’s a shame that the rest of Slate’s character arc got cut.
DIRECTORS/SCREENWRITERS: Daniel Kwan & Daniel Scheinert
CAST: Michelle Yeoh, Stephanie Hsu, Ke Huy Quan, Jenny Slate, Harry Shum Jr., with James Hong and Jamie Lee Curtis
A24 will release Everything Everywhere All At Once in theaters on March 25, 2022. Grade: 3.5/5
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