We're All Going to the World's Fair (2021)
July 4, 2022 8:48 AM - Subscribe

Late on a cold night somewhere in the U.S., teenage Casey (Anna Cobb) sits alone in her attic bedroom, scrolling the internet under the glow-in-the-dark stars and black-light posters that blanket the ceiling. She has finally decided to take the World's Fair Challenge, an online role-playing horror game, and embrace the uncertainty it promises. After the initiation, she documents the changes that may or may not be happening to her, adding her experiences to the shuffle of online clips available for the world to see. As she begins to lose herself between dream and reality, a mysterious figure reaches out, claiming to see something special in her uploads.

Written and directed by Jane Schoenbrun.

Currently streaming in the US on Hoopla and available for digital rental on multiple outlets.

Rated 90% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.
posted by DirtyOldTown (4 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I was looking forward to this, but it disappointed me with its seeming lack of anything to actually say about internet culture (apart from "being alienated still sucks for the youth of today, even if they're vloggers.") I also didn't find it particularly scary, though I thought the giant video projection on the inside of the barn was a cool image, and there was a general air of eeriness I appreciated. But overall, this is one of those movies where I'm baffled by the warm critical reception. I'm curious to hear if other people liked it more.
posted by whir at 12:08 AM on July 5, 2022

Anna Cobb was outstanding in this, just the absolute perfect portrayal of a fragile teen. I felt like, watching this, that some of her alienation might be hinted at/telegraphed through little things: the question mark on the wall, her decidedly gender neutral clothing. Then I looked it up and the writer-director Jane Schoenbrun is non-binary, so that tracks. Someone with a non cis gender journey might have more/better to say on that, but even I clocked it.

I would compare this to Christopher Nolan's debut feature Following, not because it has much in common in terms of plot or style, but because both films were occasionally boring, weren't fully coherent, were layered with Big Young Person Philosophy Takes... And yet so perfectly showed the outlines of a new voice in what they did get right: real insights scattered here and there, incisive real moments I hadn't seen anywhere else, a style that wasn't based on references but on actual visual sense, and a real knack for creating and maintaining a distinct vibe.

So... not a great movie, exactly, but I won't be surprised if, given even a modest budget, Jane Schoenbrun's next film is a great film.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:37 AM on July 6, 2022

The thing I can't wrap my head around is the JLB character.

Online, the prevailing interpretation seems to be that he's a pedophile, attempting to use the game to groom Casey.

That doesn't offer an explanation for why he operates out of what seems to be a disused child's room though, with desk, twin bed, and kid's trophies. That makes me wonder if he lost a kid at one point. I'd never rule out groomer, but that's a big detail I can't place with that.

I am not sure if I buy the ending where he explains it like they met IRL later and became lasting friends. That seems part of his in-world narrative, as opposed to a thing that likely happened.

Maybe the most resonant scene in the movie is where he asks if she is really playing the game and she recoils. Did he break the veil and ruin it? Was she really going too far on her head and that pulled her back but embarrassed her?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:46 AM on July 6, 2022

I assumed JLB had lost his son to suicide (possibly the boy in the videos who’s sitting on the bathroom floor, describing being filled up with Tetris bricks) and was dealing with his grief by trying to save Casey from a similar fate. I thought he was contacting her from his son’s room, possibly using his son’s drawing as an avatar. His loneliness and attempt to (weirdly and unsuccessfully) parent Casey was echoed by her own father’s absence—I mean, he’s around, but we never see him. JLB’s later description of meeting her in person was pure fantasy—a fantasy in which he truly connects with her and saves her, and by implication, his son.

Tbh now I hear that other people are reading JLB as a pedophile I’m beginning to doubt my own interpretation! But the idea that JLB is a bereaved father just makes sense to me, and somewhat explains the film’s structure, transitioning from Casey’s story to JLB’s. The unresolved mystery of Casey’s story is JLB’s story: there are things in our lives—terrible, unbearable things—that we’ll never be able to resolve or be ok with, questions that will never be answered… and we have no choice but to live with that.
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 1:50 PM on July 23, 2022 [1 favorite]

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