Tuesday, July 28, 2009

500 Days of Summer and Humpday

Well, 500 Days of Summer was pretty much a piece of crap. I am EXACTLY the target audience for this movie, and yet somehow it made me want to punch puppies the entire time I was sitting in the theater. It's clear that the writer and director have much the same taste in "anti-" romantic comedy romantic comedies that I do, but they didn't do enough to spackle over the seams where they'd stitched together the bits they'd stolen from these other (better) films. The most obvious touchstone is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind--tonally, organizationally, and character-wise (diehard-romantic leading man with "issues" vs. a headstrong, ultimately unknowable female love interest with a bulldozer's worth of charm), but there were also huge lifts from High Fidelity (the notion that pop songs will corrupt your ideas about love) and even Bottle Rocket (wise-beyond-her-years sage advice from a little sister). Zooey Deschanel's shtick is starting to get grating (um, ha), and for as wonderful as he is, and for as excited as I was about the idea of Joseph Gordon-Levitt making somewhat of a rom-com debut, he was sorely miscast. The role needed much more of a sadsack, and he's just too smart and strong an actor to believably play such a lovelorn wuss. Lloyd Dobler he is not. The best moment in the whole thing comes near the beginning when Zooey's character flat-out asks him if he likes her; he pauses a beat before saying "yeah" with as many shades of meaning as that word could possibly convey--longing and anticipation and doubt and shyness and truth and bet-hedging and coolness and dorkiness and desire and relief all at once. Aside from that, though, if you value your time, your money, and YOUR SOUL, skip eet.

Humpday, on quite the other hand, is graaaaaaand. I loved it! So, so much! It is ridiculously laugh-out-loud funny but also filled with so much beautiful truth that my cheeks hurt from grinning by the end of it. And not just truth about sexuality--though it has that to the degree that one would hope/expect--but truth about relationships and aging and the ultimate tenuousness of the ways we attempt to define ourselves and our loved ones. It's also totally refreshing to watch a movie with utterly normal-looking people in it--that is, utterly normal-looking people who, much like the people you know in your own life, become more and more beautiful as you get to know them. I can't say too much more about it without starting to give stuff away--and this is a movie that deserves not to be spoiled before one sees it. If it makes its way to your city, please do consider checking it out if you have the chance.

Also, how is this movie not going to be exactly the same as As Good as It Gets (which I detest)? Oh, Lauren Graham, you deserve so much better!

Also, also, also: Chicagoans, it's never too early to start planning for the weekend. Catch King Sparrow for free (free! zero bones! just because they love you!) on Friday night at the Empty Bottle, and then be sure to rest up for the Baby Teeth album release spectacular at Schubas on Saturday. If you've not had a chance to check out Hustle Beach yet, let me assure you that it's 42 minutes of pure happiness, one of those albums that goes down so smooth, you don't even realize how quickly it's whizzing by. "Big Schools" is so smart and so sly on so many levels; "I Hope She Won't Let Me" still absolutely kills me; and "Hard to Find a Friend" is the kind of stellar Billy Joel piano ballad that Billy Joel forgot how to write about 25 years ago. See you out on the town, kittens.

[Ed. note: Ha, so I posted this on Tuesday night, then Wednesday morning there was a huge spread in Chicago's Red Eye all about Baby Teeth, and in the interview, Abraham Levitan totally calls Billy Joel a hack. "He's just a poor man's Paul McCartney. Elton John, I would say, had a distinctive artistic personality, and I don't think Billy Joel has ever been more than a tribute band." Glad to know I totally got my '70s piano men references backward!]

[UPDATE: OK, this is officially the most appended entry in the history of this blog. The 7/31 King Sparrow show at the Empty Bottle was canceled. Come see them at the Subterranean on August 7, though! I know none of you are shelling out the clams to go to Lolla or to see Arctic Monkeys at the Metro, so you officially have no excuse to miss it.]

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