Sundance Part Two

On Friday N and I drove up to Odgen to see two films at Peery's Egyptian Theater. It's a wonderful old theater complete with an octogenarian organist who plays flamboyant renditions of show tunes before the movie starts.

We saw An Education and 500 Days of Summer. An Education was written by Nick Hornby and has a great cast including Peter Sarsgaard, Alfred Molina, and Emma Thompson. The film takes place in 1960s London and centers around Jenny, a 16 year-old school girl. She's pretty and bright and studying to get into Oxford but she's also rather bored with her life and longing to be a sophisticate. And so when she meets, David, a dashing older man who starts taking her around to glamorous restaurants, concerts and art auctions her head gets turned by the excitement. Predictably, not everything is as it seems in David's world and Jenny has to make some choices.

This predictability was for me, the main flaw in the movie. Many points of the plot played out according to convention or even cliché. But the cast was great (Carey Mulligan, who plays Jenny, was superb) and much of the script, plot aside, was very good. Alfred Molina has a monologue towards the end that just made my heart ache.

Over all, I enjoyed watching it. Others apparently also liked it; I just saw that it won the Dramatic World Cinema Audience Award.

While An Education flirted with cliché, 500 days of Summer got it loaded on Mai Tais and took it home on the first date.

There was a veritable list of post-Garden State hipster clichés: a arty fickle girl with guarded angst in her heart, characters professing their love for The Smiths to each other, zany escapades at IKEA, karaoke scenes (yes, more than one!) in which the songs the characters sing reveal the state of their souls, an elaborate dance number, and so on.

I think N said it best when he said that 500 Days needed to have come out in 2005. In a post-Juno world it just feels too precious. The quirky freshness it strives so earnestly for often falls flat. It sometimes felt like the filmmakers sat down and made a list of things they thought my generation would relate to and then ticked them off, one by one, when they made the movie.

But with all that said, I still enjoyed watching it. The script is often clever and while the nonlinear structure might be another one of the movie's try-hard attempts at being quirky and artsy it is fun to follow. And after all, the audience at our showing did really like the movie. But the main reason I feel so forgiving towards the film?

It's Joseph Gordon-Levitt who is freaking adorable. He played the little kid on 3rd Rock from the Sun but has made the leap from child to adult actor with aplomb. Ever since I saw him in Brick I've kind of had a thing for him. He was great in the movie and AND he has adorable, delicious eye crinkles.

So to sum up, see An Education in the theater but go to 500 Days of Summer with the girls or catch it at a matinee or on DVD.