New streaming on HBO MAX!
WE’RE ALL GOING TO THE WORLD’S FAIR (2021)
Directed and written by Jane Schoenbrun.
Starring Anna Cobb, Michael J Rogers, Holly Anne Frink, Theo Anthony
Check out the website here!!
Casey (Anna Cobb) is an introverted teen who decides to do a creepypasta internet challenge called “The World’s Fair” and after reciting the lines and performing the ritual, believes she has been cursed. Another person who believes in the curse is JLB (BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW’s Michael J Rogers) and after watching Casey’s videos, he reaches out to her to help her through this curse.
WE’RE ALL GOING TO THE WORLD’S FAIR has been praised and talked about since it premiered at Sundance in 2021 and I was really looking forward to checking it out. I didn’t catch it when it was released digitally, but it showed up on HBO MAX this month, so I finally got to catch up with it. Simply put, I don’t get what all the fuss is all about.
I agree with many of the reviewers in that Anna Cobb is an actress who commands the screen every time she is on it. She has deep soulful eyes and presents to have intelligence beyond her years. It’s that Jody Foster/Natalie Portman style of being able to display a wide range of emotions despite the actor’s young age. With her goth looks, I can imagine Tim Burton will swipe the little emo teen up for his next movie for sure. Cobb goes all out in a few scenes, dancing like no one is watching, longingly staring at the screen, and attempting to have some connection with anyone out there to cure her loneliness.
And while Cobb is outstanding in the role, there’s simply not much of a movie to see here. Most of the movie is made of Cobb staring at the screen or Cobb walking around the neighborhood while mumbling into the camera. While this is a first person POV film, I’d shy away from calling it a true found footage film as it switches media between a computer camera and a handheld iPhone. Aside from one scene where Cobb dons dayglo make-up, not many of these shots are composed in an interesting way. This is most likely a film made during the pandemic, so I understand the small cast and low production, but this is bare bones filmmaking at its bare bonesiest. There is one scene midway through that might show a tiny bit of strange atmosphere as a result of the curse. It’s decently orchestrated, but from an excitement perspective, WE’RE ALL GOING TO THE WORLD’S FAIR makes any PARANORMAL ACTIVITY entry feel like MAD MAX: FURY ROAD.
One of the more confusing things is exactly what this film is trying to say. Actor Michael J Rogers, who played the creepy doctor in BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW, plays another creepy character who seems to be reaching out across the web to help a teen. His motivations are vague and murky and he very well could be a predator, as he has a somewhat delusional rant towards the end that left me more suspicious than anything else. I guess, this might want to communicate how these viral videos and online communications only contribute to the ennui of those who were lonely and depressed in the first place. Much of the “symptoms” Casey experiences are an example of a self-fulfilling prophesy where those looking for proof of a mysterious curse are going to find it if they look hard enough and don’t take care of themselves enough. But there is no real denouement that sums up what Casey has learned from all of this.
It really feels like there is a story somewhere in WE’RE ALL GOING TO THE STATE FAIR, but I don’t think filmmaker Jane Schoenbrun gets to it. I hope to see Anne Cobb in future films, but this one isn’t scary. It isn’t suspenseful. It’s monotonous and quite boring. I don’t know what those other reviewers saw. For me, this is a film with a rising star but no story, theme, or point to keep that star busy.