Gold Coast Film Festival Review: My Entire High School Sinking Into The Sea (USA, 2016) is high school through a kaleidoscope

My Entire High School Sinking Into The Sea is a psychedelic trip through four storeys of a floating high school. About as bad of a place as someone would want to take a transcendental journey, but for the main characters it’s an edifying one, filled with colour, strange visuals and awkward relationships.

Dash (Jason Schwartzman) and Assaf (Reggie Watts) begin a fresh year of school at Tides High, continuing to publish their unpopular school paper with the help of friend and editor Verti (Maya Rudolph). As a romance blooms between Verti and Assaf, Dash becomes jealous and his friendship with Assaf begins to come undone.

By chance, Dash uncovers that the School’s administration has falsified documents and that the school is not built to withstand an earthquake. Dash tries to communicate his discovery to cool girl Mary (Lena Dunham) but sure enough an earthquake hits before anyone believes him. As the school literally begins to sink into the sea the students make their way to freedom and try to figure out what they’ll do when they get out.

The film marks the directorial debut of Dash Shaw, a graphic novelist and artist known for his series of apathetic, alternative comics. His art falls to the screen unabashedly, with a display of colourful underlays and adult swim caricatures painting the film in styles contradicting. For such distinct styles, the visuals never seem to clash.

In moments the film becomes a book, audiences see Dash walking across pages amongst detailed plant species, and in others, it is a blend of real footage, colourful backdrops and the simply drawn heroes marching through the school. It’s a vivid style that keeps the film unique and adds personality to the characters.

For such a pretty film, My Entire High School doesn’t forget to keep a narrative present. The mystery of the swirly dotted ‘i’ and the video game style progression through each floor of the school adds further layers to an already dense film. It borders chaotic in scenes, but unlike Dash’s hyperboles, it never becomes too much.

It’s a film that’s hard to define by genre. There are scenes of terror, especially as the group climbs nearer to the surface, but more than often the film is witty and funny. The dialogue is often dry but the voice actors have been cast perfectly. Jason Schwartzman plays a character that isn’t too far from Max Fischer in Rushmore, the annoying but entertaining Dash, and the rest of the cast fit the bill precisely.

The music in My Entire High School deserves its own limited release. It’s a catchy blend of synth pop that builds atmosphere through each scene and gives a theme to each character. The music also extends to the sound effects, giving theatrics to the action. When characters skim across the floor a piano key chimes each time they hit the floor. It’s a nice touch that builds on the already congruent soundtrack.

The journey to the top is full of weird characters and a tactile array of extra dimensional visuals. While the constantly shifting animations and the expression of colours and patterns may be a little much for some, just like Dash in the film, Dash in real life chose to not “water it down and so it’s shitty and popular”.

Review Score: FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

My Entire High School Sinking Into The Sea was reviewed at the Gold Coast a Film Festival. For more details about the event, head here: http://www.gcfilmfestival.com

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