All Everywhere, All At Once: All The Wild Movie References, Explained (As Best As We Can)
This post contains spoilers for Everything everywhere all at once.
Everything everywhere all at once is a giant nerd. It is also a whirlwind, a funhouse, an unpredictable Russian doll of ideas and feelings and things, dense with trippy plot points about parallel universes and metaphors about family love and acceptance. But it’s also a movie about movies, layered with references that not only pay homage to classic movies of the past, but also bring them to life with unbridled verve. The film answers questions such as: What if the rat in Ratatouille was actually a raccoon? what if The matrix was actually about a devilish bagel? And, perhaps the most romantic, what if michelle yeo played in a Wong Kar Wai film?
Now that the film, heroically made as a duo daniels (made up of Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert) hit theaters nationwide, let’s dive into all the wild cinematic references that spice up the film, from there Ratatouille remix to reinvented kung fu archetypes.
According to the Daniels, Everything everywhere all at once might not exist without The matrix. “This film is 100% a response to The matrixobviously,” Daniel Kwan told SXSW where the movie premiered. “We wanted to do our version of it.” Kwan also said so in the film’s press notes, recalling an afternoon when he watched a double feature by The matrix and fight cluband how the two 1999 films, especially the action sequences in The matrix, reinvigorated his love of cinema. “I was like, man, if I could just do something half as fun as The matrix is, but with our own stamp and spirit, I would die happy,” he said.
The parallels are immediately obvious. In The matrixthe cyberpunk sci-fi blockbuster directed by the Wachowski, a hacker named Neo discovers he lives in a simulated reality and undergoes training to understand the dark truth about the world he inhabits. In Everywhere, michelle yeo takes on the mantle of Neo, playing a woman who discovers she’s the unsuspecting, one-in-a-million hero in a multiverse where dark forces rule. Like Neo, she is the only one who can save the day. The obvious parallels end there, for the most part, although both The matrix and Everywhere rely on kung fu and martial arts for their epic action sequences.
White Lotus Clan (and other kung fu classics)
Speaking of kung fu, Everywhere is full of practical nods, as well as classic kung fu movies. The biggest wink comes in the form of Evelyn’s kung fu master, played by Li Jing. With her fluffy white eyebrows, mustache and beard, she plays straight to the classic character of Bak Mei, or Pai Mai, a kung fu master whose likeness was portrayed in many Hong Kong films of the 1970s and 1980s as White Lotus Clan and Executioners of Shaolin. The character has also been depicted in flashback scenes in by Quentin Tarantino tribute-o-rama Kill Billwith Pai Mai taking on Beatrix Kiddo as an apprentice and teaching her everything she knows about martial arts. Everywhere pokes fun at the archetype, making his Pai Mai an extremist on how everything maybe kung fu, right down to the little finger. The Daniels take things a step further by choreographing an entire fight sequence in which Evelyn defeats her foes with her newly swollen little finger.
2001: A Space Odyssey
Stanley Kubrick’s oft-imitated 1968 sci-fi epic got another boost Everywhere, with the film riffing on the classic opening sequence in which the hominids discover the monolith. But the scene also offers viewers a rather peaceful moment in the otherwise chaotic film: In one of her parallel lives, Evelyn is a prehistoric rock, silently observing and enjoying the natural world…for a few moments, anyway.
nowhere is Everywhere more chaotically unbridled than in the scenes of “Racacoonie”. In one of Evelyn’s other lives, she is a chef at a hibachi restaurant, who is constantly outdone by her colleague Chad (Harry Shum Jr.). Soon, she discovers that Chad is getting some serious help from…a kitchen-savvy raccoon who hides under his chef’s hat, playing him like a puppet and guiding his hands as he cooks. It’s a wild and funny riff on the plot of Ratatouille, showing how silly the plot of the Pixar film is and how absurd it becomes once the rodent is replaced by a larger creature. But the Daniels don’t just pitch the concept as a comedic idea. They follow, returning again and again to the subplot as Chad loses Racacoonie to a pest control villain and, with Evelyn’s help, saves his furry friend. Racacoonie’s rescue is part of the narrative, showing Evelyn’s strength and her relentless pursuit of being the hero.
In terms of style and storytelling, the Daniels couldn’t be further from someone like Wong Kar Wai. And yet, during a few scenes in Everywherethe duo pays careful homage to the director’s work, especially his 2000 classic love mood. Like Everywhere progresses, Evelyn learns that one of her parallel lives is that of a movie star of Yeoh’s caliber, with the film using real footage of Yeoh at red carpet events. However, in this parallel life, Evelyn learns that her success is only possible because she chooses not to be with Waymond, forging a different path. Waymond somehow finds his way to the premiere of his latest movie, and the two go out for a one-on-one chat. It’s moody and dark, stylized with the same romantic energy as the hallway scenes in love moodin which Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung play two neighbors who can never be together and must exchange longing glances that no one else can catch. These scenes provide some of the quietest moments in Everywhere; there are no wild punchlines, no hot dog fingers, no secret raccoons. Just beautiful cinema in the key of a classic Wong film. After all, what could create more cinematic desire than being completely in a parallel universe and still fall on the one who fled?