‘Everything, Everything’ Offers Close to Nothing, Nothing

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HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 2.0/5.0
Rating: 2.0/5.0

CHICAGO – I’ll be the first to admit that I am not the target audience for these stock young adult romance novels. Aside from the odd fascination and romanticization of teenage death and terminal illness, these stories feel trite and much closer to fantasy than anything real or plausible. This is what the film “Everything, Everything” brings to the table, which essentially translates to Nothing, Nothing.

I am patient and empathetic. I always try to understand another person’s point of view or outlook especially when it doesn’t mirror my own. Going into every film with an open mind is the only way to truly open yourself to the experience it is trying to impart. I didn’t know anything when going into “Everything, Everything” but it soon became clear that I actually knew exactly how the story was going to progress after the first ten minutes. This trite tale offers little in the way of surprises and even less when it comes to the almost forced, unrealistic romance it tries to pass off as commonplace.

Amandla Stenberg is charismatic as Maddie in ‘Everything, Everything’
Photo credit: Warner Bros.

J. Mills Goodloe has had experience with adapting and writing for these kinds of sappy love stories since he’s worked on the Nicholas Sparks film “The Best of Me” and the more creative “The Age of Adaline”. Goodloe undeniably understands the formula that goes into these kinds of films and his screenplay makes sure it follows every direction. “Everything, Everything” follows the trend of teen death that films like “If I Stay”, “The Fault in Our Stars”, and more recently “The Space Between Us”, attempt to turn into a romantic romp full of adventure. These films offer the same level of emotional maturity and intelligence as a Facebook post written while you’re in high school. As an adult, you look back on them in embarrassment realizing that the false profundity is laughable and not at all reflective of the real life you have experienced. It’s the same as recognizing as an adult how creepy and toxic the story of Romeo and Juliet comes off. While “Everything, Everything” delivers a couple of changes to the dynamic we’ve seen in the past, it still mostly sticks to the “live fast, die young” mentality.

Each subsequent film that comes out with a similar premise still has something unique to offer. Director Stella Meghie infuses this by the books young adult story with some charm. The juxtaposing color palettes alternating between warm and pastel tones, and the sterile, clinical tones offer nice, but obvious visual aids, but aren’t the only ones. Like most modern conversations, or two love interests use texting as their primary form of communication, especially since she isn’t allowed to leave her enclosure/home. Instead of just showing the back and forth text exchange as blurbs on screen, Meghie transports the two characters into life-size sets of Maddy’s architectural models. There, they are able to have their conversation in a charming set up that creates one of the few, true feel-good moments.

Is it true love or just hormonal decision-making? You decide in ‘Everything, Everything’
Photo credit: Warner Bros.

Meghie’s biggest contribution to the film and the genre as a whole is by adding diversity to the characters. Usually, the main characters in these types of stories are white, but “Everything, Everything” offers a great change up, even if a similar degree of white privilege still exists in it. Amandla Stenberg gives her character Maddie a sympathetic depth and undeniable charm that keeps her mostly entertaining while every other element of the film threatens to make her dull. The other women in this film, Anika Noni Rose and Ana de la Reguera, also provide a good supporting performance even though their characters are never developed well enough to provide an emotional impact.

The melancholic melodrama of “Everything, Everything” is a symptom of the kinds of films that studios feel teenagers want to watch. In a way, by continually producing these films based on young adult romance novels, studios execs are all but telling them these are the kinds of films they want and deserve. This film uses a thick layer of candy-coating, consisting of vibrant visuals and an upbeat, trendy soundtrack, to mask how shallow and superficial the story really is. Despite the diversity, this film is still a bland entry into the sad catalog that is considered young adult entertainment.

“Everything, Everything” opened everywhere on May 19th. Featuring Amandla Stenberg, Nick Robinson, Anika Noni Rose, Ana de la Reguera, Taylor Hickson and Danube Hermosillo. Screenplay by J. Mills Goodloe. Directed by Stella Meghie. Rated “PG-13”

Jon Espino, film and video game critic, HollywoodChicago.com

Film & Video Game Critic

© 2016 Jon Espino, HollywoodChicago.com

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