NFF chose well with their opening film. (500) Days of Summer = exuberant crowd pleaser. It's always so enjoyable to see smart comedies with an audience that actually laughs out loud repeatedly (critics screenings can be brutally quiet). The audience was totally with the movie and Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Summer's (Zooey Deschanel) difficult romance from start to finish. I was a little more tentative about falling for it. Within its first few minutes it threw four things at me that I am completely allergic to: omniscient narrator, precocious child as wizened soul, men vs. women ('they're different!') jokes, and chronology jumbling. I didn't even sneeze. It won me over.
I predict big things at the box office. I'm not suggesting it's going to be Juno-sized but I'm guessing it shouldn't have a problem entering that Tyler Perry zone -- $40ish? Or maybe even that Forgetting Sarah Marshall / Role Models $60ish zone? The film cost less than $10 million to make (or, as the moderator joked with its director Marc Webb during the Q&A, 'less than the catering on The Dark Knight') so it should turn a nice profit is what I'm saying.
[editor's note: Who has stolen this blog? Nathaniel knows squat about box office!]
At the very least (500) Days... will make bigger stars of its leads. Zooey may be on her 11th variation of free spirit fantasy girlfriend (definite echoes of her roles in Yes, Man and All the Real Girls in particular) but she's not phoning it in. The film has very smart pacing but in one of the more interesting bits within the Q&A, Webb mentioned that it was hard to control that because Zooey has such unusual "back beat timing" and was always finding new things to work off of within the scenes. He also adjusted the film's entire color palette with the production designer to better accentuate Zooey's popping blue eyes. Good move. The movie falls hard for her just like Tom.
Speaking of. The film is told from Tom's perspective and Gordon-Levitt is _________ [insert your superlative of choice, it probably applies]. He has no trouble whatsoever carrying the picture (see also Brick). Webb called him a "super, intellectual, intense actor" and noted his "great command of his physicality", the latter an observation which I had already scribbled in my notebook whilst watching so I concur. Not only does Levitt shift Tom's body language for every gradation of his relationship with Summer and his own arc but he also completely sells the film's funniest sequence, a dance number, which maybe shouldn't work but works like gangbusters. You feel as happy as Tom by the end of it.
It was strange in the Q&A to hear the director's confession that JG-L didn't think they'd get funding for a movie starring Zooey and himself because they weren't big enough stars. I was thinking to myself: 'But everyone loves Joseph Gordon-Levitt!' And then I remembered. 'Self. Bubble. Bubble. Self. You live through cinema and you talk to other movie fanatics all day long on the web. John Q Public still mostly wants to see Nicolas Cage on opening weekend.'
Opening Night Festivities
No celebrities present (sniffle... although I suppose local celebrities could have been there) but free booze to help you pretend that they were. The festival did provide celebrity intro commercials before the films, though. First up was Mr. Nicole Kidman Keith Urban who welcomed us to the festival onscreen (where was Nicole? I demand Nicole!). Carrie Underwood did the same. In her bit she said "my fellow film lovers" which cracked me up. I was trying to picture Carrie Underwood conversing on Spanish cinema ("Almodóvar and Buñuel. Discuss.") or taking sides in the great critical debate of 2007 (No Country For Old Men or There Will Be Blood?) but my imagination failed me. What do you suppose her preferred genre is? favorite actor?