Seven Stages to Achieve Eternal Bliss (2018) – Film Review
Director: Vivieno Caldinelli
Cast: Kate Micucci, Sam Huntington, Taika Waititi
by Roger Crow / @RogerCrow
When you’ve got someone as valuable as Taika Waititi in your movie, what do you do? In the case of this ’new’ cult comedy (from 2018), you front load the film with his little ditty, exploiting the Kiwi actor and director’s charisma for all its worth, then readdress it at every possibility.
Yes, it is a cult comedy, as in a comedy about a cult rather than a comedy worthy of cult status.
It centres on a youngish couple. He’s a slacker, she’s a wide-eyed kind of girl who swallows his excuses whole. They move into an LA apartment which is surprisingly cheap, and then realise why when a cult member decides to commit suicide in the bath tub.
For reasons which eventually become apparent, this turns out to be a cult members’ suicide hot spot, and the tub is a regular crime scene for those who take their own lives. Funny, right?
“Little faith in the material”
Except no, not really. Despite the fact a few of The Big Bang Theory supporting stars populate the cast and Taika is as charismatic as ever as the cult leader, Storsh, this tries to tap into that irreverent vibe that made comedies like Beetlejuice work. But getting that balance right is like jumping out of a tree and landing on one foot on the top of a fence. Tricky at best. (Believe me, I did it by accident once).
So, with little faith in the material, some actors resort to that old standby of SHOUTING. Because manic energy is funny, right? Well, depending on the context and the execution, sometimes. In this case, not so much.
Every so-called gag lands like a 747 with no wheels. Most scenes run a tad too long; a no doubt ad-libbed scene in a bathtub with a cartoon bird involving hot Mountain Dew really outstays its welcome.
It’s like a certain bearded comedian’s shouty rants on Cats Does Countdown. He wants to be as funny and irreverent as Joe Wilkinson, but just comes across as toxic and one step away from a restraining order.
“Flashes of what could have been”
I get the feeling Taika did this as a favour to a friend, but the fact that even one photo of him is funnier than a five-minute monologue speaks volumes about the script.
It’s not all bad. Kate Micucci is a great comic actress, as she proved in The Big Bang Theory and as half of excellent comedy double act Garfunkel and Oates. Alas, she’s fighting a losing battle here.
There are flashes of what could have been which dazzle occasionally, but for the most part it fails to raise even a slight smile.
Do yourself a favour and stick on an episode of Upload, Frasier or Dad’s Army to see how great comedy should be performed. This is about as funny as a clown’s funeral.