The SXSW Film Festival delivered a doozy of an opening night presentation with Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s “Everything Everywhere All at Once” on Friday in Austin — offering up a buffet of images for viral memes.
Fleshy hot dogs in place of human fingers, a talking raccoon voiced by Oscar winner Randy Newman, butt plugs that serve as portals to other dimensions, a martial arts showdown between Michelle Yeoh and Jamie Lee Curtis, and a universe-shattering bagel all populate the A24 release. While Twitter will have its day with the inventive and well-crafted insanity, the filmmakers and cast also produced a rowdy crowdpleaser with themes of acceptance, optimism, and love literally conquering all.
“We used to do a lot of music videos and we’d get rejected a lot. So we had all these leftover ideas,” explained Scheinert about the kitchen sink approach to the movie’s plot. “So we said, let’s make a movie with everything in it, full of all those things Rihanna said no to.”
Earning a standing ovation for her kaleidoscopic performance, Yeoh told the audience she was “so goddamn proud” of the work she put in –across storylines, continents, cultures and emotional tones in the multiverse crafted by the directors, who are professionally billed as “Daniels.”
A buoyant crowd of “cinephiles and movie nerds,” as Kwan put it, were thrilled to pack Austin’s Paramount Theater, where an indoor masking was strictly adhered to (and no proof of vaccination status required at the door). The men behind the buzzy 2016 Sundance title “Swiss Army Man” (dubbed “the farting corpse movie” by film Twitter) expressed their pride over the finished project in a Q&A following the premiere.
“We took it kind of slow. We’ve been doing this for about 10 years and slowly building up the ability to make something like this,” Kwan told SXSW film head Janet Pierson. “We also built our crew, this family, and by the time we were ready to write this movie we knew our crew was up for the task.”
Pierson herself was overcome, saying she was “rusty” in her introductory remarks and observing that “for a lot of us, we haven’t gathered like this since 2019.”
In his Variety review, chief film critic Peter Debruge said the movie ” does everything but buck your seats and spritz you with water, although I’m pretty sure the Daniels would be thrilled for the film to play in 4DX theaters that do just that. Their goal is evidently to deliver an unparalleled sensory-overload experience, as this busy, multilingual film throttles us for the better part of two hours.”
On stage, the Daniels also admitted they were confident showing the movie to the SXSW crowd, a major departure from the nerves and self-doubt they’d experienced with previous work. They are, however, still human.
“I had to pee really badly after the screening. The men’s room had a really long line,” Kwan said. “Thank you for letting me cut. And big shout out to everyone who waited until after the movie to go.”