LAFF 2014: Comet
First time director, Sam Esmail, may not have picked especially uncharted territory for his directorial debut Comet, which focuses on the rocky relationship of an oddly paired couple, but his storytelling technique reflects the perspective of an enlightened and astute new addition to the film scene. In a parallel universe, Dell (Justin Long) and Kimberly (Emmy Rossum) move back and forth between different periods of their 6 year relationship. An epic first meeting/date in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, an afternoon in a Paris hotel before a wedding, a train ride a year after their first breakup, a relationship defining phone call, and a meeting years later. Their relationship and personalities are revealed through each major juncture with a magical realism quality framing all of it, à la PT Anderson or Michel Gondry. Meteor showers, double suns, reality and fantasy lines blur as scenes transition with special effects that provide a cosmic backdrop.
The music and visual effects somewhat save the film, however, as it’s literally all dialogue, and each scene’s distinct look (props to cinematographer Eric Koretz) showcase the conversations beautifully. Long and Rossum carry the weight of the film as they talk their way through every scene. And in this parallel universe witty fast paced speak flows in abundance. Quippy romantic soliloquies & sharp bantered humor, marks of an unrealistic romance, are strangely viable because of our pretend setting and the actors’ ease. What isn’t made clear is why a fatalistic, love-doubting and yet clearly romantic dude, and a somewhat self-absorbed and insecure borderline manic-pixie girl should be together. Because of the limited purview of the film we’re not allowed access to the moments where their love makes any practical sense. She doubts his commitment to the long haul, yet he’s the one always in pursuit. He is a cancer-curing hero who is always afraid of missing the moment and thus lives for 5 minutes from now, yet has trouble committing to the future. Comet‘s many disjointed parts don’t all add up, but they are engaging to watch and hypnotic to listen to.
While it could have been another love story about unrealistic people and irrational infatuation, Comet manages to hold to the indie film spirit. Which makes it, perhaps impractically, immensely easy to enjoy. Long plays insufferable in a way that still allows him to seem charming, and he definitely carries the majority of the chemistry between himself and Rossum. Rossum keeps up with the banter well enough, but her character isn’t given enough common sense to win us over. If she could have conveyed some sort of inner wisdom, it would have worked in her favor, but she seems to delight in her character’s insensibility and takes for granted that Kimberly is simply wanted.
Perhaps love doesn’t follow rules, so if Sam Esmail wants to dream up new ones in a world of his imagination, he’s just clever enough to make it interesting, if not remarkable.