“Most good scenes are rarely about what the subject matter is,” screenwriter Robert Towne (Chinatown, Shampoo, The Last Detail) once said. “You soon see the power of dealing obliquely or elliptically with situations, because most people [in real life] rarely confront things head-on.”

The finest, most realistic and effective screenplays, in other words, are mostly about the things that are not said. And when all the things that are not said and that finally need to be said are finally said…that’s the great catharsis of the movie.

The absence of this, to me, is what’s terribly, agonizingly wrong with Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert‘s Everything Everywhere All At Once, which I’ve been avoiding for months but which I finally sat through last night.

It took me three and a half hours to get through this curiously successful A24 release. Because I needed breathers and time-outs. I needed air. I needed to talk things out with a friend who also had difficulty sitting through it but finally got there after three attempts. But I finally made it to the end, and I have to say that despite my anguish I absolutely loved the ending, or more precisely the last two lines. (I’ll explain in a minute.)

But my head had been aching from all that hammering, on-the-nose exposition, and enduring this gave me great pain. I don’t want to imagine Robert Towne’s response.

All those parallel universes and all that verse-jumping. The constant milking of the Matrix-like idea that there are multi-dimensional hallucinatory realms above, beyond and within our day-to-day regimens and banalities, and how the multiverse is being annoyingly threatened (here we go) by Stephanie Hsu‘s Jobu Tupaki, who “experiences all universes at once and can verse-jump and manipulate matter at will”, etc. And whose “godlike power has created a black hole-like ‘everything bagel’ that can potentially destroy the multiverse”…my head was splitting.

The pornographic overuse of martial-arts battles. Jamie Lee Curtis‘s over-acting as the IRS agent, and the more-more-more of it all, which made it feel all the more synthetic and gimmicky.

There are two necessary stages in good writing. The first stage is turning the spigots on — you have to turn them on and let it all pour out. But once you’ve written it all down, you have to prune the unnecessary stuff (blather, repetitions, darlings) and maybe do a little reshaping.

Kwan and Scheinert’s script certainly began with the spigots, but they didn’t seem to edit much after the first draft or two.

But I love the very last bit, which uses one of my favorite screenwriting practices — refrain. During the first IRS meeting Curtis notices that Michele Yeoh‘s Evelyn Quan Wang, the co-owner of a laundromat, is seemingly day-dreaming and probably not focusing on the matters at hand. Yeoh’s “day-dreaming”, of course, is the doorway to all the trippy imaginative stuff, which is what the film is visually about.

During the second and final IRS meeting, Curtis again asks Yeoh if she’s paying attention. Yeoh gently smiles and says, “I’m sorry…did you say something?” or words to that effect. Perfect.

The film’s $100.5 million gross thus far and especially the enthusiastic Zoomer-Millennial response pretty much seals the deal that Everything Everywhere All At Once will be Best Picture-nominated. But there’s no way in hell it’ll make any serious headway in that regard. No. Way. In. Hell.