Trying to Handle Everything Everywhere All at Once
I haven’t really gone to the movies in years.
I could sometimes be talked into driving to the fancy IMAX in Pooler for the latest Fast & Furious franchise (don’t come at me about Tokyo Drift.) But generally, Savannah’s whole movie theater scene, with its lackadaisical no-talking-on-the-phone enforcement and inexplicable refusal to sell Junior Mints, kind of grossed me out.
Sitting close enough to hear people mouthbreathe, imagining the layers of grime on the upholstered chairs, witnessing awkward sex scenes with total strangers—I mean, why would you when you can stream the latest features curled up in your pj’s on your couch with your pets and candy of your choice, pausing for bathroom breaks and turning on the subtitles when your spouse won’t stop talking?
But the few last weeks, with the world’s stomach-churning Orwellian turns—where Russian lawmakers justify Ukrainian genocide as a “metaphysical holy war” and Florida Republicans reject math books because somehow the sum of ignorance and trigonometry is critical race theory—have felt especially overwhelming heaped onto the everyday piles of laundry, death, and taxes. Handling it seems to require the sensory deprivation and suspended disbelief that only sitting in a dark theater with booming surround sound and 14 tiny paper napkins spread across your lap to catch popcorn grease can bring.
The newly-named NCG Cinemas on Skidaway and Victory has been gloriously renovated and rejuvenated since the last time I was in this centrally-located movie theater, when we took the children to the sixth Harry Potter and someone in the back row threw a half-chewed Sour Patch Kid in my hair. Mark and I checked it out on a recent rainy afternoon on a whim, if that is what we are calling avoiding the headlines and our accountant.
After hearing that the new Batman flick is as dark as the news, we took in the totally forgettable Romancing the Stone rip-off The Lost City, though I have to say that at 57, Sandra Bullock makes post-menopause look pretty smokin’ running around in that tight fuschia jumpsuit without any discernible face plasticizing.
We were pleasantly delighted with the theater’s facelift, however: Though they still do not sell Junior Mints (who, but WHO is eating all these Raisinets??), the pristinely-sanitized reclining seats and super-efficient concession service (as in “put as much butter flavoring on your own damn popcorn as you like”) sold me once again to the pleasures of going to the movies.
So Sunday evening, after packing up the Passover seder plates and seeing one kid off for his last few weeks of college and realizing the futility of trying to impose a curfew on the other, we once again succumbed to NCB’s comforting lacuna. Now fully committed to this theater’s post-modern makeover, we went ahead and purchased the refillable, reusable popcorn bucket, anticipating many empty-nest dinners in the months to come. (While certain levels of observance may consider corn unkosher during Passover, our family decided long ago that giving up our overnight oats and Foxy Loxy kolaches for 8 days is pious enough.)
The place was empty as we settled into our third row-middle easy chairs (booked in advance) and filled in about halfway by the time the previews ended (holy moly, the new Elvis biopic!) I would never have sat any closer than the seventh row in any movie theater’s previous layout, but with this sensible new design and wide rows you can probably sit up in the way front without needing a chiropractor.
Of course, an enjoyable theater excursion depends on the movie. I’m of the opinion that righteous action adventure is best on a big screen (hence my F2F obsession), and I’d heard that Everything Everywhere All at Once was worth a schlep to the theater. Starring martial arts badass and occasional Starfleet commander Michelle Yeoh—who at 60 is serving more menopausal hawtness; hurray for post-#MeToo Hollywood!—begins with a harried mother struggling with—what else?—family, laundry, and taxes.
However, after a scene with fellow sexagenarian Jamie Lee Curtis, who does not look sexy at all in her role as a sadistic IRS auditor but reminds us that she is unequivocally a goddamn comedic genius, the film quickly morphs into a multidimensional kung fu epic reimagined as Pedro Almovadar’s Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, fortified with dizzying costume changes and LSD-level visual effects that include hot dog fingers.
Do not let the hot dog fingers distract from the thematics. EEAAO is an absurdist existential manifesto exploding headfirst into intergenerational trauma, intersectional feminist dialectic, and inclusive storytelling represented by Asian, immigrant, and LGBT narratives. It’s also wickedly funny and heartbreakingly sad. You won’t get any other spoilers than that from me, but I promise we belly-laughed in our Barcaloungers and dropped real tears into the popcorn bucket.
Soaking in the film’s splintered realities added up to a black mirror for my own angst. Sometimes the search for meaning yields a yawning void, and it’s rough trying to stay tragically optimistic as the polemic between fascist oppression and human dignity becomes evermore absurd. Breaking the cycles of personal, political, and cultural dysfunction can seem impossible, or worse, pointless.
It’s a hard truth to confess to those coming up that life can be fucking exhausting. And confounding. And terrifyingly unfair. And also super menial and boring. Maybe the only acts that matter are to pull each other back from the abyss and find kindness in the chaos.
While our family’s upcoming double graduation is indeed a blessing, milestones also mean more miles to go. And then more miles. And more piles. Just laundry and taxes as far as the eye can see until you die.
Except for those incredible moments when everything is illuminated and we feel the undeniable connection to something more—if not to the whole universe, then at least to the people we love.
“All we get are little specks of time when any of this actually makes sense,” bemoans one EEAAO character, who could also be talking about the film. But again, don’t be put off by the hot dog fingers.
We’re not the only ones who are resonating with this weird, wild ride of a movie that isn’t about big blond superheros or sexy vampires. Everything Everywhere All At Once shattered post-COVID box office records last weekend, which means that in spite of the repetitive pablum churned out by big studios, people are interested in complex stories about women of a certain age.
Not only that, we want to watch them in a clean, cozy movie theater with seats that recline. Maybe because none of us wants to sit in the dark alone.
But you can bet next time I’m smuggling some Junior Mints in my purse.
Let’s not throw things in the movie theater, k? ~ JLL
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