Friday, April 17, 2009

500 Days of Joey & Zooey

Nashville Film Festival ~ Day One
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.

It's 'Zooooey'

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?


Derreck said...

cool. i'm glad to hear that (500) Days of Summer was as good as it sounded on paper. I'm still a bit reluctant about Zooey though. I think the whole "acting with my eyes" thing from "The Happening" might caused that though. or maybe it was Shymalan's fault for directing her that way.

wait. why am i spending so much time talking about "The Happening"?

and its good that you didn't get to see the Kidman. She would've totally distracted you (and i would've been horribly jealous. :P)

brianmaru said...

Very excited for 500 Days but, like you going in, am a little skeptical too. I just don't need another Zooey pixie girl performance. JGL though, I can't get enough of him. Funny how this is coming out within weeks of his turn as Cobra Commander.

Wayne B. said...

The movie sounds great, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, so aweseome that he turned out to be the real article. Had a boyhood crush on him back when he was doing Disney movies.

Wayne B. said...

Forgot to say that my speculation is that Carrie Underwood is a rom-com gal, anyone wanna bet Julia Roberts or Reese Witherspoon would be among her faves?

Christine said...

I think that Carrie Underwood would be a "No Country for Old Men" supporter. Her favorite character would be the frail, naive, yet resilient wife of Josh Brolin.

Also, who doesn't love Joseph Gordon-Levitt? If such people exist, I don't want to be friends with them.

Jorge Rodrigues said...

Ooh I'm so thrilled this film is very good... To tell the truth, I was kinda afraid it might show us the same old Zooey but if it is bearabale enough... :D

Zooey has to change her character arc a little bit, just like Amy Adams (although I don't think any of them will... they don't look like the kind of people who would try new things just to prove a point... If one is good at it, why not continue doing it?)

I also don't know why Joseph Gordon-Levitt thinks his name doesn't sell. Everyone loves him.

Also... Have you checked out the trailer for My Sister's Keeper?

Check it out here:

I was so surprised by it... Cameron Diaz looks great (and shaves her head... finally not wasting her talent anymore!) and Abigail Breslin is kicking ass - another box office hit? Next thing you'll know, she'll be competing with Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep for the best summerhit :D

But wow, this girl is amazing! I ask, how dare some people say this girl can't act! She's way better than Dakota in my opinion. Plus, she's got a nomination to prove it :D

Hey, doesn't this film look a little bit like the Little Miss Sunshine deal all again?

Jorge Rodrigues said...

And I forgot to answer the Underwood question...

Yeah, chick flicks. Rom-com and dramedies. And animated movies.

Derreck said...
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Derreck said...

i forgot the Underwood question too. I see her loving and having a crush on Johnny Depp. and Rom-Coms do seem like her choice of drama.

I would say Notting Hill is one of her favorites...but that is probably because it is a deep secret of mine that i love it too.

I always liked the JGL, but i don't really see him as a headliner or someone who could bring people into theaters. I'm really interested in his version of Cobra Commander though. I'm ashamed to admit that i didn't even know he was playing the character. Hopefully, he hits a home run like:

Heath Ledger - The Joker
Michelle Pfeiffer - Catwoman
Famke Janssen - Jean Grey/Phoenix

Chris Na Taraja said...

The worst voice over in film history was in MILLION DOLLAR BABY. It was Morgan Freeman in what sounded like an dull echo chamber or bathroom. By the end of the movie, I'm sorry to say that I was making fun of the voice over in my popcorn tub.

Though I love the 50's infomercial commentary voice over in LITTLE CHILDREN. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't....mostly it annoys.

keith said...

Well, you should know Nathaniel that Nicole is VERY busy this summer : "Rabbit hole" starts shooting next month, and "Untitled Woody Allen Summer project" is scheduled to start filming in July.

To make it short she's busy preparing to take over Cinema once again... ala 2001.

Walter L. Hollmann said...

I feel like Zooey always puts variations on the character, though. She's always that girlfriend/free spirit, but she approaches it differently here than what I've seen her in before. Same with Amy Adams -- that girl does some subtle work that no one gives her credit for.

Wouldn't it be delicious if Carrie Underwood adored Salo?

Christine said...

No Chris,
There is no worse voice over performance in the history of cinema than Keanu Reeves in "Dracula." Freeman's work in "Million Dollar Baby" pales in comparison.

E said...


r u crazy?

Famke Janssen was not good as Pehonix, Jean Grey maybe. Phoenix never!

Anonymous said...

Nathaniel, what stops you from giving it an A?

Derreck said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Derreck said...

E said:

r u crazy?

Famke Janssen was not good as Pehonix, Jean Grey maybe. Phoenix never!


BLASPHEMY!! (throws a giant heap of holy water on E) :)

The three people i listed earlier were cast as comic book villains (well, to be honest, Jean Grey was not a villain when Famke was first cast but, i digress) and were met with disdain from all sorts of me.

I thought Heath Ledger was wrong for the part of the Joker and that Paul Bettany could've done better.

I was, so, wrong.

I thought Michelle Pfeiffer was not even near as sexy enough to play Catwoman.

Once again, i was wrong. She blew away my expectations.

I thought Famke Janssen was too old for the part of Jean Grey (even though i loved Famke since "GoldenEye") and that she really didn't fit what i had in mind.

Can you guess what happened next? I was wrong again.

Famke was especially great in the part of "Phoenix" because she brought an intensity that the part needed. Plus, she managed to rise above the somewhat botched treatment of the Phoenix.

It would've been ludicrous to make the Phoenix into an entity that consumed Jean like in the comic books, because it would have ruined the whole aspect of "realism" that the first two movies tried to achieve, but at the same time, having "Phoenix" be a different personality inside her was a bit of a stretch. It seems plausible if worked out correctly, but it wasn't given the right treatment in the film.

But, back to Famke. She was intense, but in a few scenes, also allowed some vulnerability to her character. It was haunting how she pleaded to Wolverine to kill her after she knew what she did to Scott, plus, she commanded the screen and your attention in the scenes at her childhood home.

I could go on forever about her, but i have been writing too much. lol.

and it's not like it validates her performance but she did get a Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress. :P

vince said...

Nathaniel ... your comment on Carrie Underwood ... tsk tsk!

filmgeek said...

I've been looking forward to seeing 500 Days since it was announced that Zooey and JG-L were doing an indie together. I think Zooey is an incredibly under-rated actress and I've loved JG-L since 10 Things I Hate About You (and Brick is one of my favourite films).

My Sister's Keeper looks amazing too. I love Jodi Picoult's novels and when I heard this one was going to be adapted I knew it would translate well for the big screen. Actually, I think they would all make great films

Kurtis O said...

"(500)" was the Opening Night Selection at the Philadelphia Film Festival as well. I was so giddily entertained by it and by Zooey & Joey -- hands-down one of the most adorable couples I've ever seen on screen. I must admit, I was pretty devastated that their romance had to end (which, really, is no spoiler, fellow readers). Something magical happened between those actors that's too rare in movies: real, unbridled chemistry. In EW, Zooey's quoted as having an aspiration for the pair to keep doing movies together and become the next Hepburn and Tracy. She admits it's "lofty," but I got the smileys reading it. I'd watch these two together in anything.

Ripley said...

I love JGL, what is he talking about? Then again, I'm obsessed with Mysterious Skin and Brick.

Jesue V // FILM MUSIC ART said...

I don't know why but this post just kept making me laugh out loud. But in a good way.