Popular online short film production company, Wong Fu Productions, has released their first feature film titled “Everything Before Us.” The movie was crowdfunded by many of their fans across the web via Indiegogo and raised over $350,000. They already had a network of talented creators through their years of online content creation, now they had a budget to work with – so how was the movie?
To start, I’m going to say that I feel it’s necessary to treat this movie like any other movie. I think it’s a huge disservice to efforts like “Everything Before Us” and “Camp Takota” to compare them to their talents’ YouTube videos. I feel that those comparisons limit and color someone’s true opinions on a piece of work. “Yeah it was a good movie, especially for YouTubers,” is something I’m assuming most cringe upon hearing. With that being said, it’s very hard not to compare this movie to Wong Fu’s previous work. If I had seen this movie with all the credits taken out, I would still know that this is a Wong Fu production. Whether or not that’s a good thing is yet to be determined.
Let’s talk premise, which in this case, is a pretty interesting one. In the world of “Everything Before Us,” your EI score (which works very much like a credit score) can make or break you. Your Emotional Integrity can keep you from jobs, loans, and even clubs if it’s too low. The score is based on your relationship track record. Once you meet someone you’re committed to having a relationship with, you register said relationship with the DEI (Department of Emotional Integrity) and the longer you’re in a relationship the higher your score gets. Terminate the relationship before a year is up? Your score takes a hit. The worst offense? Terminating a relationship due to infidelity. That, or EI fraud.
I thought the idea was pretty interesting. How many people I’d be willing to explain that to is a whole different question. But the idea does seem very inherently Wong Fu, which I haven’t decided whether that speaks to their strengths – or a struggle for new ideas. What I will say that Wong Fu has proven successful at, and continues to be is their realistic portrayals of relationships. I think with the length of a feature, it gave them the opportunity to show the complexity of human relationships in a way they weren’t able to before.
I thought the performances overall were good, but there were some definite scene stealers. Namely Joanna Sotomura (Emma Approved) and Ki Hong Lee (Maze Runner, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt). I feel like the audience wasn’t supposed to be fond of Sotomura’s character, as it seemed like she was a Type A character – but she’s just so damn charming that I can’t not like her. As for Lee, I’ve always felt like there’s just something about him that makes him very likable (Yes, even in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Where literally nothing he does is remotely Vietnamese.)
As for the rest of the cast, I definitely think they all held their weight. I thought the best performances came from Aaron Yoo and Brandon Soo Hoo – but that be because they’re the two most emotionally charged roles. I wish there was more exploration into Randall Park’s character, as I think there was only one scene where we see him outside of the DEI offices. I thought that the two leading ladies, Victoria Park and Brittany Ishibashi held their own, I thought Ishibashi was completely enthralling in all her scenes. I do feel like, for myself personally, there was a disconnect with Park’s character. Just because I don’t know that many girls in college in my life that would be that reserved if they had a boyfriend that was driving them crazy.
Technically, I just wish this movie looked and felt more cinematic. I feel like they’re definitely capable of it, I just want to see it. Aside from the aesthetics, and this totally could have been something with my internet connection, but during a lot of Haley/Seth scenes – the audio sync seemed a bit off to me. Again, totally could have been something wrong on my end, I won’t say it wasn’t distracting though.
Overall, it was a good first effort. I just want to see something from Wong Fu that could potentially be in a theater someday. I’ve been supporting them for a long time, and will continue to do so because I think they’re doing great things online and really pulling Asian Americans ahead in the entertainment industry – but something just wasn’t there for me with “Everything Before Us.” I liked it, but it wasn’t enough for me to share with someone without feeling the need to link all my friends to their most popular videos before they watch the movie so they can “get a feel” for Wong Fu’s voice. I think a film should be able to be a standalone piece without the creators previous work all bleeding in, but I definitely thing that Phil, Ted, and Wes will get there and beyond in the very near future.