November 2, 2009

Two peas in a traumedy pod: 500 Days of Summer vs Adventureland



These two films have come and gone in the States and only just were released over here in "Gateway to the Balkans" land. Hence I imagine most of you will be familiar with at least the titles.

I am doing a direct comparison of the two, since, well, they pretty much fall into the same category (and I saw them back to back).............offbeat, indy, boy meets girl, coming of age, crap job.... You could go so far as to use the much maligned adjectives "quirky, kooky". So I won't.

Story:
500: a love story between hip and heaven, even though it claims it isn't.

Excerpt from the narration:
This is a story of boy meets girl. The boy, Tom Hansen of Margate, New Jersey, grew up believing that he'd never truly be happy until the day he met the one. This belief stemmed from early exposure to sad British pop music and a total mis-reading of the movie 'The Graduate'. The girl, Summer Finn of Shinnecock, Michigan, did not share this belief. Since the disintegration of her parent's marriage she'd only love two things. The first was her long dark hair. The second was how easily she could cut it off and not feel a thing. Tom meets Summer on January 8th. He knows almost immediately she is who he has been searching for. This is a story of boy meets girl, but you should know upfront, this is not a love story.
ha ha...yeah, right. Kooky.

Adventure: "coming-of-age story love story whilst jobbing at a second tier amusement park in Philadelphia, because my parents have run out of cash and can't afford to send me to Europe with my preppy friends. "

Genre:
500: no idea. Ok, I do have an idea. Its a generation xyz love story or as the lingo goes "offbeat" Why is this offbeat? I must think of a better word for these kinds of indie looking yet still pretty much romantic comedy type film. I know - romantic traumedy. Romance either induced by, or resulting from various traumatic experiences whilst offering comedy relief......somehow.

Adventure: same as above.

The guy:
500: Joseph Gordon-Levitt ( most recently Stop-Loss, Brothers Bloom, then way back "10 Things I hate About You", "That 70' Show") cute&melancholy, lovable, compassionate agile performance. One just constantly wonders why he'd go for such a skank as Zooey Dechanel

Adventure: extremely intelligent subtle nuanced performance by Jesse Eisenberg. First encounter in "The Hunting Party" with Richard Gere and Terence Howard. He's good.

The girl:
500: Zooey Deschanel. She is so full of herself, the attempt to look beyond that, searching for a grain of some ostensibly touted talent, is tedious. Ms. Deschanel looks eternally bored.

I suppose Ms. Deschanel aims for various Brigitte Bardotisms, judging by her I-can-so- carry-off-the-high-waisted look and hair thing. But completely and utterly devoid of any charm. She is about as charming as plastic ice cubes. Nothing can melt this chick.

Adventure: Kristin Stewart. Aside from the acceleration of hair-tossing frequency and opened mouthness, not too bad. The quintessential pretty girl who hides behind baggy t-shirts and baggy jeans. Like that girl from the Breakfast Club, Alley Sheedy. Kristin Stewart not quite as uninhibited (except when it comes to sex) about her dandruff problems as Alley Sheedy was.

Supporting cast:
500: excellent, with the exception of the 12 year old sister. Could someone club her stage mom over the head? Played by Chloe Moretz, of all the annoying, wisecracking, hair ripping paradigms of little grown ups, she takes the multi-tiered cake. Aren't kids kids anymore? She is supposed to be 12 and is giving advice to her 20-something brother? Isn't it supposed to be the other way around? At least some of the time? Or is that the offbeat thing, when kids mutate into really annoying smartasses....

Adventure: Due to high percent blandness of dialogue, pervasive blandness of characters. Disappointingly unfunny. Ryan Reynolds deserves an honorable mention, running low on the ham, and delivering a solid performance as the serial adulterer and local hot seducer of young girls.

Script:
500:
My newly invented term of romantic traumedy fits perfectly here. The script/dialogue was fun and fluid, just some slight creaks of rheumatism here and there. The focus was on Tom and Summer and stayed focused, with a lovely group of characters driving the story forward.

Adventure:
Didn't quite know what it was trying to be. Choice of cast reflects a desire to charter the familiar waters of Superbad land. The title, setting, visuals, the cast all signal "red alert": gross out teen comedy.

While the relationship between the two heroes translated as genuine, heart-felt and real, the surroundings were cloudy and obtuse. Trying to tackle too many issues like Russian literature, ethnicity, dysfunctional home life, alcohol addiction, parents death....all that being introduced and whisked away from the main thread of a young girl succumbing to the town Don Juan, who has little more to offer than his looks and his legendary encounter with Lou Reed (or someone), whilst possessing enough self-anguish to look beneath the surface of Jesse Eisenberg's character and falling for him.

Question: are we supposed to feel sorry for these kids working at "Adventureland"? I don't. Its much worse at Starbucks.

Direction:
500:
Marc Webb . This seems to be his first larger-scaled movie.

One has seen the blueprints of romance and comedy mixed and matched in so many other films, I suppose its hard to leave a lasting impression. Like patchworks, essentially all patchworks are the same, just with different patterns and colors. What makes a film remarkable is that oh so elusive mix of ingredients. I don't think anyone quite knows why some films work and some are just flat. While I wouldn't call this totally pancake-flat, there wasn't much of a sizzle either.

I did enjoy the portrayal of Los Angeles. No beach, plastic babes nor Beverly Hills. The city as the location woven unobtrusively into the fabric of the film, never a main entity as the use of, say, New York, invariably does. The LA portrayed in 500 Days evokes a faded glimmer of days long gone, yet not desperately melancholy. Nice.

Full honors to the director for the patient zero of charisma-vacum -virus that is Zooey Deschanel's character. Total failure at coaxing any sort of emotional transition out of her at the crucial pay-off in the finale, it was like busting your ass for a demanding yet indifferent customer, who fails to tip you.

Adventure:
Greg Mottola of Superbad fame. Its noticeable that with the choice of actors, camera work, production design, he is still loyal to His Apatowness. While the core of this film, the budding friendship between James and Em, is stringent and honest, the rest is staggeringly lame and Mottola doesn't seem to know what to do with all the sideshows he opened the curtains on. Responsible for the script as well, he bit off more than he could chew.

Summary:
Two ok films, both containing some impressive moments of real life love and sincerity. Not awful, I'll definitely catch them again when they appear on my movie channel.

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