Dell (Long) and Kimberly (Rossum) meet at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles. They’re each there to watch a meteor shower, Fate, and Dell’s big mouth, help strike up a relationship. That’s one of five different stories Esmail jumps between, almost at random, throughout the course of the movie. We then see the couple in Paris, on a train, doing the long distance thing and meeting up at an apartment. As the film begins, we don’t know when each of these events take place. We know they’re happier in some times than others, but as the film unfolds, one of its biggest pleasures is the slow reveal of the order of things. Little between Dell and Kimberly unfolds in a traditional manner. (synopsis via Slash Film)
It is well nigh impossible to come with an interesting twist on the much-loved but rather hackneyed romantic comedy genre.
But Sam Esmail manages it apparently with Comet in such a transcendent, luminously-moving way that it has critics raving, such as Germain Lussier at Slash Film who writes:
“Every once in a while, you go to the movies with no idea what you’re about to see and witness something special. Even something miraculous, cinema in its purest form, without hype or expectations. That happened to me this summer when I saw Sam Esmail‘s Comet.”
And Michael Nordine at Indiewire who waxes lyrical about the film thus:
“A star-crossed romance that often feels cosmic and intimate within the span of a single scene, Comet rhymes images from five different eras of a relationship that begins during a meteor shower and may or may not end more than half a decade later. It carves out a space for itself between the drawn-out conversations of Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy, the jumps between a turbulent couple’s honeymoon period and their eventual decline in Blue Valentine, and the whimsical dream logic of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. And it’s as appealingly strange, funny, and melancholy as those components suggest.”
Granted, it is not to everyone’s taste with George Berkshire at Variety lamenting:
“Flashes of promise can’t save Comet, an ambitious indie misfire that adopts a playful time-jumping chronology in order to chart five key turning points in a six-year relationship. The effect is a little like Annie Hall by way of Don’t Look Now, though the overly self-conscious approach of debuting writer-director Sam Esmail proves far too exasperating to really merit such lofty comparisons.”
But there are enough reviews out there lauding this innovative take on the rom-com, a genre of which I am uncommonly fond despite its many modern cliches and shortfalls, to make me feel hopeful that Comet will be something special.
Frankly, even if it does fall short of a masterpiece of romantic cinema, my hat is still off to Sam Esmail for attempting to breathe some life into a genre that more often than not relies on the same old characters and narrative pieces lined up in pretty much the same unimaginative order.
If Mr Esmail, who both wrote and directed Comet, has indeed delivered on this clever premise, and enough people, who saw the film at the Los Angeles Film Festival in June this year, are of the opinion that he has indeed done that, then I will be one happy, romantically-sappy, man indeed.
I may even buy myself some roses and chocolates to celebrate … wait too cliched? Dandelions and tofu maybe?
Comet opens in the USA on 5 December; no international dates have been posted as yet.