7 STAGES TO ACHIEVE ETERNAL BLISS BY PASSING THROUGH THE GATEWAY CHOSEN BY THE HOLY STORSH
Starring: Kate Micucci, Sam Huntington, Dan, Harmon, Taika Waititi
Directed by: Vivieno Caldinelli
Written by: Christopher Hewitson, Clayton Hewitson, Justin Jones
There are some films where you have to go “Well, I’m here. If you want to get crazy, I can get crazy too. Let’s hold hands and take this trip together.” This is what you will find with 7 Stages to Achieve Eternal Bliss by Passing Through the Gateway Chosen by the Holy Storsh. Let me tell you. It is 100% worth every amount of crazy you put in and take away from it.
7 Stages to Achieve Eternal Bliss by Passing Through the Gateway Chosen by the Holy Storsh focuses on Claire and Paul, a couple who lifted their lives from small-town Ohio to LA. Claire is an ad executive (I believe), and Paul is a very lazy man-child living vicariously through his relationship. One night, a man climbs through their apartment window and kills himself in their bathtub. The couple, OBVIOUSLY CONFUSED, learn that their apartment used to be rented by an LA guru with a cult and killed himself in their new tub. The cult followers, to achieve holy bliss, want to kill themselves in the same bathtub. The couple decides not to leave, but that decision trickles into a whole new set of issues. One that has them falling deeper and deeper into the world of the Holy Storch.
There’s nothing more I like than an absurd film. I’m such a fan of obscure exploitation films. I also love learning about different cults in my spare time. (Don’t look at your screen like that. Everyone needs a hobby). 7 Stages is just as batshit as it wants to be. Unknowingly, satisfying my love for obscure cinema with a cult related narrative. Director Vivieno Caldinelli doesn’t try to sell you something that you won’t buy. He lays this film out just like it is, fun, funny, unpredictable and unwilling to compromise or tell you whats right and whats wrong.
Let’s be honest, there are things you will and won’t like about it. Caldinelli manages to make an entirely creative and wonderful film that doesn’t feel too crunched into what filmmaking is supposed to be. Screenwriters Christopher Hewitson, Clayton Hewitson, and Justin Jones write a movie that becomes playful, sporadic and quirky, almost like you’re watching a long-running fever dream. When directors and writers break out the box like this, they’re remembered far more than those who keep a rigged standard. This team doesn’t make any mistakes in what it wants to be and creates their niche within filmmaking. Caldinelli keeps the weird and wacky of Christopher Hewitson, Clayton Hewitson, and Justin Jones script and amps it for the audience to enjoy.
Kate Micucci is the perfect comedic leading lady. You may know her from the singing duo, Garfunkel and Oats or the voice of Sadie on Steven Universe. Micucci is a breath of fresh air and on point with what she brings to the screen. She knows how to make those perfect faces at the moment that makes you buy exactly what she’s selling. With her small voice and adorable face, you sympathize with her character Claire though and through. She’s a woman stuck in a rut, a relationship that she seems one way, but acts like it’s another. When something magically comes into her life, she milks it for all that it’s worth. It’s easy to relate to Claire with Micucci at the helm. She’s nothing less than a marvel in film, and Caldinelli knows where his star lies within this movie.
Sam Huntington as Paul is such an absolute cutie pie. It makes it hard to hate him even though he’s the laziest mouth breather in the planet. His quest in living through his partner and trying to get his shit together is all too common, but he keeps a child-like wonder that’s fantastically executed and EXHAUSTING.
Don’t get me wrong or confused, Huntington is great in this movie, but his character is exhausting to the point where you feel like Claire at specific points. This is something that’s felt, and it’s welcomed how much it’s handled. There’s a scene where Claire is very much in a cycle with him. She’s sitting to play this patty-cake type of game that he loves and she’s so tired. The camera spins around him, letting us into Clarrie’s continuing cycle that she’s running into. It’s a scene where we still love Paul, but goddamnit, you want him to go away.
Dan Harmon knows what kind of comedy he brings to the table and you welcome it with open arms. He does and knows the absurd better than anyone, with this movie he takes the role of the terrible cop and makes him sympathetic, pathetic, and you root for him all the way. Harmon makes this role his own and almost steals the show with every scene he’s in with his straight on facial expressions and how he uses his body for comedy. Dan also gives as much obscurity as this movie wants to provide and nails it.
VERDICT: WATCH IT! (& WATCH IT FOR YOURSELF.) Critics will be up and down about this movie. I sat in a room filled with critics and reviewers with mixed feelings. I loved it, but I’d love for YOU, the reader, to give this film your attention at least once. You may love it, you may hate it, but there’s nothing like this movie. I doubt there will be anything like this film to come. It’s creative, obscure, hilariously witty and a perfect display of not taking yourself too seriously. This film feels like a bunch of friends just wanted to make something funny and quirky to show other friends, but ended up on the festival circuit for better or worse.