WE’RE ALL GOING TO THE WORLD’S FAIR – Review by Jennifer Merin

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The horror-tinged minimalist psycho-drama. We’re All Going to the World’s Fair, is a first narrative feature from writer/director/editor Jane Schoenbrun, whose commitment to personal, art-driven cinema is evident in this slow burner — in some ways a teenage navel gaze — about a girl named Casey whose life is lived on and for the Internet via a disturbingly disconnecting (and self-destructive) Internet game/community — the name of which is the films title — with which she is obsessed and to which she is very vulnerable. 

Casey is a siphon for teenage angst. Anna Cobb fills her sketchily written character will a full range of emotions that makes her performance utterly galvanizing. She is a persona caught in the contradiction of working on establishing her identity while, at the same time, trying to obliterate herself. Every moment of Cobb’s wide-eyed and searching performance is believable and affecting.

Daniel Patrick Carbone’s camera work and Schoenbrun’s editing are enormously skillful, creative and effectively eerie. They actually disorient the audience by sometimes creating the impression that you, the viewer, are online with Casey, joining her as the recipient of her Internet video  presentations and viewer challenges, rather than watching her Internet presentations from ‘the balcony’ or your couch. The psychedelic lighting is appropriately trippy.

With all of its dissociative elements, the film is actually more meditative than shocking. It’s billed as horror, but there is no horror cringe, no slasher gore. Instead, the film provides a curiously contemplative — if somewhat extreme — fictional look at what it might be like to be a contemporary teenager facing all of the hard issues and questions raised while coming of age in a world-wide civilization that is particularly unsure about its future. 

We’re All Going to the World’s Fair is not an easy watch. But, WOW, it is unique and it is effective. And, no spoilers, but the film’s ending lands with a twist that isn’t foreshadowed, but comes as no surprise and effectively grounds the fantasy of the film in one sad and daunting reality of of kids’ Internet experiences.

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Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and About.com. She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is a member of the Critics Choice Association in the Film, Documentary and TV branches and a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).