Seven Stages to Achieve Eternal Bliss Movie Review

Original title: Seven Stages to Achieve Eternal Bliss by Passing Through the Gateway Chosen by the Holy Storsh

A small-town couple (Kate Micucci and Sam Huntington) finds the perfect apartment in the big city, except there is one catch: the apartment is home to the ritualistic suicides of a deranged cult.

Early on, we find the film has a great sense of humor and well-executed delivery of lines, such as the boyfriend who won’t run from his death-filled apartment because he’s “lazy”. That the film is quirky should be no surprise; the title alone sets audiences up for what sort of humor they ought to expect. No one could take a title seriously that will not fit on a poster (aside from, perhaps, Fiona Apple). And along with two great leads, the cameos help make the film. Maria Bamford and Brian Posehn, for example, give the story a comic gravitas that you would not find with unknown comics.

Critic Nick Johnston wrote, “It should be a criminal offense to have people like Taika Waititi … and Dan Harmon … in your movie and use their talents this poorly.” On this note, I fundamentally disagree. Waititi is perfect as the titular Storsh, so what more could be asked of him? Likewise, Harmon plays the comic detective to a T. His strength has always been his writing (which he did not do here), so to get a good character out of him is a pleasant surprise. Heck, it could even be interesting to spin this off into a sequel following Harmon.

Johnston further notes that “the core here is ultimately hollow, and the characters remain aloof and are impossible to connect with.” In contrast, he says that a superior film with a similar sense of humor is “Dave Made a Maze”. On the latter point, he is absolutely right. “Dave Made a Maze” is arguably the best film of 2017 despite somehow not receiving a wide release. He may be on to something with the former. Though his words are a bit more harsh than necessary, it does feel as though the film never completely hits home. Maybe the script needed one more polish or something, but despite being funny the film lacks a real punch that would make it worth coming back to.

Leigh Monson, who also name-drops “Dave Made a Maze”, writes, “as the imagery and dialogue become more psychotic, the jokes don’t land as consistently or as intensely”. This may also be close to the mark. The first half is, for the most part, stronger than the second. Could it be because the situation gets further away from reality? This does make sense. When everything is absurd — and there is no reality or “straight man” to navigate through the insane world, it does lose something along the way.

Stephen Saito notes this is “a rare leading role for Micucci, who carries the film with ease and whose various expressions throughout the film from horror to bliss are worth the price of admission alone.” Saito and I are on the same page. Micucci’s being a main player (in fact, THE main player) was what drew me to the film and I have no regret on that count. With all due respect to Garfunkel and Oates, Micucci has always been best on her own (see “Raising Hope”). This is her moment to shine, and hopefully even if the film does not make a splash, it will serve as a good showcase for her.

“Seven Stages” played at Cinepocalypse in Chicago on June 26. Given the people involved, it is sure to end up in people’s homes (Redbox, Netflix, etc.) by the end of the year.

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