Two of the most joyously clever and buzzed about films of 2022 are essentially the same movie but told through wildly different visual lenses and genres. Both Pixar’s animated Turning Red and the Daniels’ Everything Everywhere All at Once are family dramadies wrapped in genre-bending packaging told from the POV of strained mother-daughter relationships. They are both operating at the echelons of their respective spots in the cinematic multiverse (one mainstream animated, the other indie live-action) and both come across like breaths of fresh air.
I watched Turning Red first, and probably about twenty times with my almost four-year-old…ah the joys of streaming and parenthood. Admittedly, both he and I are now big 4Townies, and along with the vibrant animation and compelling family themes, the boy-band parody songs from Billie Eilish and her brother are amongst the many highlights of Pixar’s latest. The central conceit of the film is that the family’s matriarchal line is cursed (or is it blessed?) to have each daughter turn suddenly into a giant red panda at inopportune times once they hit puberty. This naturally causes a lot of angst and relationship drama.
Meanwhile, I was finally able to catch Everything Everywhere All at Once in theaters…its buzz so strong, it’s the first film I’ve ventured to see on the big screen since the pandemic started. It certainly lives up to the hype, and Michelle Yeoh gives an Oscar-caliber performance as the harried owner of a laundromat being audited by the IRS who becomes so stressed she begins imagining a multiverse where anything and everything is possible…but the common thread is her detachment from her daughter who she pushes too hard.
I couldn’t help but think that Turning Red might be one of the universes in Everything Everywhere All at Once. The similarities in themes and cultural nuances are myriad. Everything Everywhere All at Once has that rare feeling of watching a film breaking all the rules and thus creates something brand new, but some of the funniest bits that hit home the most were when it called back to familiar things…like my favorite Pixar film of all time, Ratatouille (which I also just recently watched with my son). Here Michelle Yeoh’s character hilariously jumbles the details of that film’s plot, re-imagining it with a racoon instead of a rat and creating (apart from the universe where everyone has hot dogs for fingers) the film’s funniest universe.
From the chaos and absurdity of puberty, to the universal strains of parent-child relationships, to the contradictory futility and wonder of life…here’s to two films that break their own molds and entertained the hell out of me and many, many others across the multiverse.