There’s something horribly hypocritical about the so-called “hipster” movement, that while it venerates the artefacts and techniques of the past, also screams “cool!”, “modern!” and “liberal!” from its every pore. It’s a trend that idolises the individual over the environment, and that fetishises a lack of accomplishment, spurning advances in science and technology (while secretly utilising them to achieve its aims) in order to celebrate a kind of ostentatious mediocrity. It feigns to be intelligent and enlightened, while being instead intolerant and deeply conservative in nature.
With a title like My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea, it’s no surprise to discover that Dash Shaw’s debut feature is as arrogant and lacking in self-awareness as it is stifled by being a product of its developmentally arrested High School philosophising. Which isn’t to say that Shaw is unaware of what the criticisms of this film will be, rather that he attempts to claim superiority over any such opinions by flagging them up in his script, only to have the self-named protagonist Dash deflect them by, get this, repeating them – and without having learned anything from the experience. It’s the kind of egotism that understands concepts but not their concomitant application in real life. Hipsterism in a nutshell.
In a plot that does score some political points – albeit undermining them by promoting its nerdish, intellectual underdogs over the “jock”, a euphemism for those who go out and achieve rather than simply being content to sneer at the achievements of others – a reporter on the school newspaper discovers that the principal has concealed his under-investment by faking a safety report, and that Tides High is in danger of falling into the sea. Which is, of course, exactly what happens.
The rest of the movie falls into the trap of essentially aping The Poseidon Adventure on the budget of an amateur YouTube upload – which is basically exactly what this is, a muddled extended video that outstays its welcome long before it gives you enough reason to care about its characters’ predicament. The animation, such as it is, is as likely to provoke either headaches or bemusement in any viewer who isn’t already versed in Shaw’s comic-book stylings prior to tuning in.
Aiming to be a synthesis of Wes Anderson and Richard Linklater, My Entire High School suffers from all of the issues that Anderson largely avoids, eventually settling for being a kind of low-rent Whit Stillman as if produced by children. It’s mostly pretty horrible, although possibly compellingly so if you’re in the right frame of mind. Unless, of course, you’re one of the chosen it’s so desperately aiming to please, in which case it’s like unsliced bread made of purest organic vinyl.
Special Features: The Art of and The Making of My Entire High School / Five shorts
MY ENTIRE HIGH SCHOOL SINKING INTO THE SEA / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: DASH SHAW / SCREENPLAY: DASH SHAW / STARRING: JASON SCHWARTZMAN, REGGIE WATTS, MAYA RUDOLPH, LENA DUNHAM, SUSAN SARANDON / RELEASE DATE: FEBRUARY 5TH