Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022), by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, needs no introduction, because the movie has earned more awards than any other movie in history. But how’s the screenplay? Let’s jump right into the analysis.
It you had an experienced screenwriter drop LSD before forcing them to write an entire script in 24 hours, this is basically what I would expect.
The film is loved by many, although there is an alternate crowd that claim it is unoriginal and over-the-top. In regard to unoriginality, anecdotally it seems younger folks (more in tune with Rick and Morty, Matrix, etc.) felt it was more of a derivative or knockoff, while older viewers saw it as (in ways) a natural progression in filmmaking. The boldest part? Using the timely concept of the Metaverse to explore alternate versions of characters. There’s a fine line between genius and crazy, and this film crosses to both sides at the sam time.
In terms of theme, most people call it a family drama. I’d also add that there are elements of Coming of Age as Evelyn gains the strength to tell her father that her daughter is gay. Of course, there is parody too, an example being a mock scene of 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Bear with me: A few years ago I was talking to a successful real estate developer and he was telling me a story about going on a lavish fishing trip off the coast of Nantucket. Due to a rainstorm, the trip ended up being a bust, and he told me, “The best days are the simple days.” In other words, the days you truly remember are simple, not over-the-top, no cell phones, perhaps just sitting around a campfire with friends.
In ways, the same can be said about screenplays. A screenplay with a simple message can be more impactful than one that is convoluted. Wait, isn’t EEAAO complete chaos? It sure is, but the primary message, about family, is actually quite simple. And I think that’s one of the many reasons it resonates with so many people.
There’s too much to unpack here. Playing around with alternate versions of characters is probably the most important insight I gained with this script.
In other scripts, we would see this through changes in time, for example, a younger version of a character being more immature than an older one. But this script plays around with unalike characters in different universes, which allows for greater interaction between them and ultimately a more flushed-out exploration of theme.
Dialogue & Pacing
The script uses Dual Dialogue to show both original spoken dialogue and translated text, when necessary. I wouldn’t call the dialogue overly witty or comedic and there are some powerful and clearly well-thought-out moments. The use of bolded text in the screenplay serves to emphasize important points, with the majority of these lines appearing within longer blocks of dialogue. This formatting choice makes it clear which lines are intended to have the most impact on the reader/viewer.
Obviously, pacing is tricky here due to the frequent cuts between scenes. Even though it’s a slow read, there’s actually quasi-organized chaos that keeps the momentum strong. I haven’t read the screenplay for Uncut Gems (2019), but I did see the movie, and the edge-of-your-seat energy is similar.
It’s a bizarre screenplay with a relatively simple message. I guess that makes it impactful. But I have my doubts it will compete with films like The Godfather (1972). I feel that the screenplay came at the right time, at the tail end of the Metaverse hype, and had the right energy. The bottom line: It’s unique and edgy, but I’m not sure that makes a movie that will truly transcend the test of time.
Best Part of The Script
This isn’t a script you can read out of order. So, I’d recommend starting from the beginning. It’s definitely not a script for a novice screenwriter, and it’s a slow read. Frustration grew as I was frequently doubling back at the beginning and at some point decided just to read it through. I probably missed a few jokes, but it read better than way.