Everywhere Now – Movie Review

Where and when?

The relationship between film and miracle technology has long been one based on “what if?” idealism. Documentaries like Who Killed the Electric Car have found an audience in those wishing we weren’t so dependent on fleeting resources and polluting the environment while giving more of our money to rich people. As fun as it is to root for the little guy, the eco-trainwreck of these films often result in the underdog being put to sleep. That’s why it’s refreshing to see the Earth-friendly protagonist succeed in the documentary Everywhere Now.

Singer/songwriter and indie darling Billy Harvey’s first foray into directing, Everywhere Now follows his winter 2008 US tour where he attempted to travel completely using a custom engine that runs on waste vegetable oil. For those of you unfamiliar with the fried food industry that is the heartbeat* of this nation, waste vegetable oil is the excess grease from fry-cookers that is otherwise completely useless and immediately disposed of. Let’s marinate on that for a second: this guy Billy Harvey purchased a 1981 Mercedes and converted it to run on garbage that he could get at any restaurant for free. That’s like saying you’re paying someone to give you a 7,000 mile** piggyback ride and you’re paying them in soiled paper towels and apple-cores***.

The film is shot entirely on Harvey’s own laptop camera. While that in itself sounds almost as unconventional as a mercedes that runs on garbage, it works as it makes the viewer feel as if they’re the sole accompaniment on Harvey’s cross-country road-trip. Harvey’s charismatic enough to carry the bulk of the screentime as the only living entity, and the piercing intimate eye of the laptop camera on this extensive journey slowly unravels him into full blown vulnerability. While there are these jarring moments, the film is kept light through these unique shooting aesthetics. His childlike innocence has him carrying around the laptop in front of him as he enters any number of the country’s all-identical Chinese Restaurants**** and says “Hi, I’m the guy that called about you waste vegetable oil. I use it to run my car. Can I have it, please?”

Being a first time director, there are also moments of him playing with his movie-editing software like a new toy that also make the film endearing. One of the most memorable moments was, after stalling, he fiddles with the engine as a last resort and once it works the screen flashes the obnoxious blue generic “GO GIANTS!” text. While funny moments like that work, some of Harvey’s other choices do not, namely the complete lack of non-diegetic music***** in the film. While I can admire the bold move of a singer-songwriter letting his film-making abilities stand on there own, it just seems like such a waste to not feature a touring artist like him performing any songs until the credits. Unless this was a subtle nod to the 70s feminist revenge film I Spit On Your Grave, this choice is just baffling.

Billy Harvey proves garbage can get you anywhere.

Everywhere Now is an interesting film that stands apart from its contemporaries in the eco-technology genre because (SPOILER ALERT) it’s a success. While his back is against the wall numerous times, Harvey is successful in this endeavor. Throw in the fact that there’s enough waste vegetable oil for everyone in the country to be riding around shining on garbage and you’ll wonder why technology like this isn’t more well known.****** It’s fun, genuine and good insight into the mind of a touring artist. Everywhere Now is the rare example of how one man can turn garbage into gold.

We give Everywhere Now a Three Out of Five.

So until next time…let’s agree to agree!

*or heart-clogger.

**For those keeping score at home, that’s 6,000 more miles than Vanessa Carlton will walk.

***Which some struggling singer-songwriters are known to do.

****Sidenote, why do all Chinese Restaurants look alike? I’m not talking the actual sitdown bang-a-gong get-it-on ones, but the styrofoam container takeout ones. Was there a voyager from the Far East who set up shop once he touched down in America, proclaimed “These floors shall be dirty, these walls shall be greasy, these seats shall be absurdly colored to not match the traditional Chinese printed wallpaper, and there will be an oversized fish in a cruelly small fish-tank because that’s the way God intended it!” and set the template for an entire industry?

*****Non-diegetic music is the term for any music in the film not caused by the direct actions of anyone onscreen, including the original score and any songs added for dramatic effect. It’s terms like this you learn from four years of Cinema Studies at NYU and now I’m passing the savings on to you!

******Conspiracy? I think we know who is to blame!

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