You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Comet’

Justin Long and Emmy Rossum's committed performances highlight an exasperating time-jumping relationship dramedy.

Justin Long, Emmy Rossum, Eric Winter, Kayla Servi.

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. Committed performances by co-leads Justin Long and Emmy Rossum (both also credited as executive producers) will be the primary draw, but the hard-to-warm-to nature of the characters will further limit the pic’s dicey commercial prospects after its Los Angeles Film Festival premiere. A VOD release emphasizing the stars sounds about right.

An opening title card informs that the events we’re about to see “take place over six years (a few parallel universes over),” which can be read as either an explanation or an apology for the overbearing barrage of artificial repartee to come in the next 90 minutes. The thoroughly insufferable Dell (Long) is introduced at the moment he’s told by phone that his mother has cancer. Far from finding him sympathetic, however, audiences will likely already have tired of his smart-alecky verbal diarrhea by the time he meets Kimberly (Rossum) mere minutes later.

Kimberly saves him from being hit by an oncoming car at the Hollywood Forever cemetery, where they’ve arrived separately to watch a meteor shower that evening. Dell is flying solo but Kimberly is on a date with Josh (Eric Winter), a pompous hunk given to loudly proclaiming his antipathy for both New York (it’s not relevant anymore) and the Beatles (worthless without Pete Best). Believing she deserves better, Dell makes his play.

Before they’re even together, the film jumps ahead to some point after they’ve split up, when they meet again at random on the street and share memories of a fateful fight in a Paris hotel room. “Comet” gets to that hotel room in due time, as well as a transcontinental cell-phone conversation and a rendezvous in Kimberly’s Hollywood apartment  each representing a different stage in the evolution of the central relationship.

With its laserlike focus on those pivotal moments  the meet-cute, big fight, calamitous confession, bittersweet reunion and possible reconciliation “Comet” overlooks any sense of how the pair actually function as a couple. Pessimistic Dell is such a toxic presence (he unsurprisingly admits to having been diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder), and Kimberly so underwritten by comparison (she mostly has to react to Dell’s awful behavior), that Esmail struggles to build any rooting interest in their relationship. They banter nonstop, complete with a slew of random pop-culture references (from Tupac to Roald Dahl to Jack Tripper) that fail to define either character in any meaningful way.

Lapses in the screenplay are mitigated only slightly by the natural chemistry between Long and Rossum. They’re such a perfect match onscreen, in both physical presence and acting style, that one can only hope for a stronger vehicle in the future to better explore the potential left untapped here.

In a sense, Esmail attempts to accomplish in a single film what Richard Linklater did over three in his “Before … ” series (a comparison underscored not only by letting Dell and Kimberly’s first encounter play out over the course of the film, but also by setting one of their extended conversations on a train). One of Esmail’s concerns is the way Dell unintentionally dooms the relationship with his belief that it can’t possibly work out, so it makes sense to portray the full arc, but the phoniness of the “Comet” conceit shines through in the film’s stubborn detachment from reality.

In addition to the “parallel universe” title card, both Dell and Kimberly keep referring to their situation in knowingly meta ways. Is this all a dream? A premonition? An alternate reality? Did Dell actually get hit by the car in the cemetery and die? All questions that would have been better left for viewers to ponder, rather than allowing the characters to explicitly raise them onscreen, especially since the film never shifts fully into sci-fi or fantasy territory.

Tech credits are generally more winning than the characterizations, especially Eric Koretz’s whimsical camerawork, which uncovers a handful of striking images through off-kilter framing and unconventional angles. Editor Franklin Peterson and production designer Annie Spitz wisely resist an open invitation to go over-the-top as the narrative bobs and weaves through time, while someone (perhaps hair department heads Lauren Kress and Sharon Rivera) deserves a shout-out for the mystifying frizzy perm Rossum sports during the cell-phone chat sequences.

Film Review: 'Comet'

Reviewed at Los Angeles Film Festival (competing), June 13, 2014. Running time: 90 MIN.

Production: A Fubar Films presentation in association with Anonymous Content. Produced by Chad Hamilton, Lee Clay. Executive producers, Colin Bates, Steve Golin, Peter M. DeGeorge, Emmy Rossum, Justin Long, William A. Stetson.

Crew: Directed, written by Sam Esmail. Camera (color, HD), Eric Koretz; editor, Franklin Peterson; music, Daniel Hart; music supervisor, Michelle Crispin; production designer, Annie Spitz; art director, Brittany Hites; set decorator, Tracy Dishman; costume designer, Mona May; sound, Dennis Grzesik, Chris Howland; supervising sound editor, Steven Iba; re-recording mixer, Richard Kitting; visual effects supervisor, Mark Dornfeld; visual effects, Custom Film Effects; line producer, Eleanor Nett; assistant directors, David Gross, Chad Rosen; casting, Nicole Daniels.

With: Justin Long, Emmy Rossum, Eric Winter, Kayla Servi.

More Film

  • Alain Berliner To Direct Cannes-Set ‘Second

    ‘Ma Vie en Rose’s’ Alain Berliner Directs Star Cast in ‘Second to Nun’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    Page Three Media and Artemis Productions, which backed “The Danish Girl,” announced in Cannes “Second to Nun,” a new feature from Golden Globe winning director Alain Berliner. Berliner’s decades-ahead-of-its-time “Ma Vie en Rose,” the tale of a young transgender girl with dreams of growing into a mature woman and marrying the boy next door, was [...]

  • Artist Andrew Levitas Tackles Corporate Greed

    Artist Andrew Levitas Tackles Corporate Greed in Johnny Depp Starring 'Minamata'

    Andrew Levitas has carved out a unique place in the art world, having used his considerable skills across multiple creative platforms. A filmmaker, painter, sculptor, producer, writer, actor and photographer, Levitas is also the founder of Metalwork Pictures, a media production company that develops and produces original content, including his 2014 directorial debut, “Lullaby,” as [...]

  • Oliver Laxe

    Cannes: ‘Fire Will Come’s’ Oliver Laxe on Classicism, Avant-Guard, Egos

    CANNES  —    Spain’s Oliver Laxe returns to Cannes for the third time with“Fire Will Come” (O Que Arde), competing in Un Certain Regard— the first time a Galician-language film is selected for Cannes. He has pedigree. His first time round, in 2010, Laxe snagged a Fipresci nod for his Directors’ Fortnight title “You All [...]

  • Gael Garcia Bernal'La Belle Epoque' premiere,

    Gael Garcia Bernal on Cannes Out of Competition Screening ‘Chicuarotes,’ Hope for Mexico

    CANNES  —  There’s a scene right at the beginning of “Chicuarotes,” Gael García Bernal’s second movie as a director, where Cagalera and Moleteco, two teens from the humble San Gregorio Atlapulco district of Mexico City, board a bus in clown’s makeup, and launch into a clumsy comedic sketch. Maybe because it’s delivered in San Gregorio [...]

  • Italy's Notorious Pictures on Buying Spree

    Cannes: Italy's Notorious Pictures on Buying Spree Takes 'Vivarium,' Ups Production (EXCLUSIVE)

    Italian distribution, production, and exhibition company Notorious Pictures is on a buying spree at the Cannes Film Market where they’ve acquired four high-profile titles, including Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots sci-fi-fier “Vivarium,” which world-premiered in Critics’ Week. On the production side the expanding outfit has teamed up with Belgium’s Tarantula Productions on Islamic terrorism thriller [...]

  • Marco Bellocchio The Traitor Cannes

    Director Marco Bellocchio Talks About Cannes Mafia Drama 'The Traitor'

    Cannes veteran Marco Bellocchio’s vast body of work spans from “Fists in the Pockets” (1965) to “Sweet Dreams,” which launched at Directors’ Fortnight in 2016. The auteur known for psychodramas and for bringing the complexities of Italian history, and hypocrisy, to the big screen is back, this time in competition, with “The Traitor,” a biopic [...]

  • Director Tudor Giurgiu on Transylvania Film

    Director Tudor Giurgiu on Transilvania Film Festival Opening Film ‘Parking’

    CANNES–A poet, a romantic, and a stranger in a strange land, Adrian is a Romanian immigrant working as a night watchman at a car dealership in Cordoba. After leaving his old life behind, he falls in love with a Spanish singer who offers him a shot at reinvention. But when a money-making scheme by his [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content