After two years in the COVID doldrums, 2022 has started with a big bang for the movie industry with Top Gun: Maverick showing that the right blockbuster can still bring people to theaters in droves. Meanwhile, the A24 sleeper hit Everything Everywhere All at Once rode excellent word of mouth to a box office record for the studio and critical acclaim. And those are just two of my favorite films from this year, while I already had to make some hard decisions and trim several movies I loved from this list. Those movies include The Black Phone, X, The Outfit, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent and Petite Maman.
Everything Everywhere All at Once
This remains easily my favorite film of 2022 so far after multiple rewatches, and one of my favorite films of the past decade. Michelle Yeoh is perfect as an overwhelmed immigrant mother running a struggling laundromat while dealing with her silly husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan) and her lesbian daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu). The film gradually introduces the multiverse as a metaphor for nihilism and all the noise of life, to emphasize how if nothing matters, our relationships with others are all we have. Quan, Hsu and Jamie Lee Curtis as IRS agent Deirdre excel at not only portraying their “normal” selves, but also multiple multiverses incarnations of their characters. Quan is arguably the heartbeat of the movie and Hsu is iconic as the villainous Jobu Topaki. Everything Everywhere All at Once is one of the most creative and ambitious movies made in a long time, and expertly balances absurd gross-out humor, engaging action and as much heart and philosophy as any movie this year.
On the Count of Three
This bleak buddy comedy sees two lifelong best friends Val (Jerrod Carmichael) and Kevin (Christian Abbott) spend one last day together before they fulfill a sacred suicide pact, grappling with what led them to be in this position where they don’t want to live anymore. If that doesn’t sound like a bucket of laughs, you’re in for a big surprise as stand-up comedian Carmichael, who also wrote and directed the film, mines the situation for all the humor and heart that it’s worth. It is at once bleak and life-affirming, but above all, authentic. Abbott is particularly good in his portrayal of a man who feels failed by the system with an inescapable fate. Every beat of this movie works in a big way.
This film may be too idiosyncratic for some people; those idiosyncrasies even detracted from the movie for me on the first watch. But on a second watch, those faded into the background compared to the strengths of Peter Dinklage’s performance as Cyrano de Bergerac, the beautiful cinematography and the terrific musical pieces. Director Joe Wright really captures something that makes the entire movie feel like a painting come to life. The classic love story rivals Romeo and Juliet and Cyrano delivers on that story. Swapping the traditional big nose element for Dinklage’s dwarfism sheds a potential silly distraction for a more grounded insecurity. While the original Cyrano may feel too unattractive for Roxanne, Dinklage’s portrayal makes the character feel altogether more doomed to a loveless life altogether.
Top Gun: Maverick
There were a lot of reasons to be skeptical of a Top Gun sequel coming into this movie. Many studios have tried and failed at sequel cash grabs, and there are plenty of people who think the original didn’t warrant a continuation. But Tom Cruise proved that it’s still possible to make a franchise sequel that can rival the original. Cruise slips right back into the role of Maverick, with believable character growth for someone now more than 30 years older than in the first film. Miles Teller makes the movie work though as Rooster, the son of Goose, with his resentment of Maverick never feeling overplayed for the sake of plot. The third act of this movie is absolutely breathless, beautiful action with real shots taking precedent over CGI and it really shows. All of the aerial sequences are massive improvements over the original. The action also coincides great arcs to Maverick, Rooster and Hangman (Glen Powell) that load the ending with catharsis. Bob and Phoenix are also standouts, although every character outside of the three mentioned above remain pretty thin studies. Jennifer Connelly’s Penny is fine, but the character mostly exists as a plot device for Maverick’s struggles with settling down. But for this movie, it works.
Cha Cha Real Smooth
Apple TV+ once again has a potential hit on its hands a la Coda, with a sweet relationship rom-dramedy that peels back the veneer of a formulaic story and delivers something much more real and engaging. Cooper Raiff’s script is extremely mature for a 25-year-old filmmaker, and his performance as Andrew is endearing. Dakota Johnson has a real shot at best supporting actress as Domino, the mother of an autistic teenage daughter on the edge of the adult world while still flirting with youth and possibility. This isn’t a rom-com; things don’t all work out exactly as planned, but there’s a beautiful message about the relationships and memories we make along the way, elevating it past standard fare.
What are your thoughts on the movies that made my top five? Share them down below!