Seven Stages to Achieve Eternal Bliss By Passing Through the Gateway Chosen by the Holy Storsh
Seven Stages to Achieve Eternal Bliss By Passing Through the Gateway Chosen by the Holy Storsh is a bizarre movie that defies nearly every filmmaking norm, including how long a title is allowed to be before becoming socially unacceptable. The story begins as a pair of innocent Midwesterners, high school sweethearts played by Kate Micucci and Sam Huntington, make the move to Los Angeles.
To their delight, they find that they are able to secure a seemingly perfect apartment: the rent is low, it's in a great location, and most importantly, it's close to the freeways. But the downside quickly becomes apparent to our two noble heroes when a frenzied cult member (Josh Brener, who you may recognize as Bighead from Silicon Valley) breaks into their apartment and commits ritual suicide in their bathroom.
You may be thinking, "Hey Audrey, suicide isn't funny. And cults are a serious problem, especially in Los Angeles for some strange reason." And like...yeah. But Seven Stages doesn't shy away from its darker elements, nor does it attempt to emotionally manipulate its audience with shoehorned pathos. What instead follows is a wild freefall into madness that is thinly plotted but surreal and what I believe professional film theorists refer to as, "fucking bananas."
This is a high concept film that essentially serves as an opportunity for its cast, which is packed with comedy credentials, to have a little bit of fun. There's a seemingly endless series of cameos from stalwarts of the comedy circuit, including Brian Posehn, Maria Bamford, Mark McKinney, and many others. The perpetually underrated Kate Micucci puts in a wild-eyed performance as Claire that seems particularly well-suited to her talents as she spirals from sweet to unhinged.
But the real surprise of the cast is Sam Huntington (women aged 28-32 may recognize him from his iconic performance as Mimi-Siku in Jungle 2 Jungle), who hasn't been known for his comedy work in the past but is more than able to keep up with his very funny costars. In particular, he has a ridiculously extended monologue detailing how he lost his job at the water filtration plant that I still don't think I've fully recovered from.
The thing that elevates this film from goofy, frequently depraved comedy that basically has only one joke to something more substantial is the inclusion of quirky character details for the supporting cast. Police officer Cartwright played by Dan Harmon is a gruff, jaded cop by day, eternally hopeful screenwriter of America's next great cop drama by night. While Paul struggles to find a career that will show Claire he's an actual adult, he ends up discovering a passion for building intricate but structurally unsound birdhouses (mostly made out of cardboard). And while Taiki Waititi's role as the titular Storsh is fairly small, he makes the most out of every ridiculous cult moment.
Overall, Seven Stages is clever, risky, and funny. If it occasionally loses its way or fails to live up to its hilarious concept, the end result is still an engaging, original film that is unafraid to take chances, even if the writing isn't always sharp enough to make them pay off.