Martin Carr takes a look at writer-director Sam Esmail’s “intellectual exercise in relationship deconstruction” starring Justin Long and Emily Rossum…
Some things are hard to categorise. These would include anything by Lars von Trier, a cross section of Wim Wenders work, or the Mack daddy of ambiguity Peter Greenaway. Indie rom-com Comet positions itself with poise in this rarefied company.
What director and writer Sam Esmail has created here, falls somewhere between seminal classic Annie Hall and the bleak beauty of Blue Valentine. Co-produced by its stars Justin Long and Esmail’s wife Emily Rossum, this fragmented film requires the audience to focus.
With overly elaborate dialogue scenes which ask a lot of the viewer, Comet plays like an intellectual exercise in relationship deconstruction. By bouncing between different periods of Del (Long) and Kimberley’s (Rossum) flirtation, courtship, happy medium and eventual separation, you get an almost clinical dissection of what relationships mean.
In visceral performances which redefine the phrase tour de force both actors give you everything. Long has proven himself a versatile actor on numerous occasions, whether in Going The Distance, Tusk, Dodgeball or other scene stealing cameos. But here he defines Del as a commitment phobic, risk averse, intellectual mess of male ego. He is either central protagonist or delusional participant, expounding on various topics, while Emily Rossum spits bile and venom whilst intermittently cooing between clenched teeth.
Familiar from supporting roles in Mystic River and The Day After Tomorrow, this is a part destined to be her calling card. There are discussions on the meaning of time interspersed with art as a medium in relation to each other. Which delves into philosophy and our place in the modern world that can become protracted. You will either find Comet extremely stimulating or mildly pretentious depending on your standpoint. But what Esmail, Long and Rossum have delivered here is nothing if not thought provoking. However its central issue remains one of pacing.
As can happen with drawn out dialogue scenes and fragmentary structure, things can become a touch slow. For the unprepared, Comet may be a little dense. It revels in ideas, words and film as a medium, yet frustrates in similar ways. Comparative to Jim Jaramusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive and Woody Allen marmite movie Interiors, Comet is at once impressionistic yet didactic in approach.
For this reviewer it was a case of intellectual overload, combining cinematic and literary references which ultimately felt rewarding. However if your idea of romantic comedy is more mainstream, Comet may feel more like bench pressing your own body weight. Way too much effort for something which is supposed to entertain, rather than induce brain freeze. When Harry Met Sally is a million miles away from this romantic equivalent of the Penrose steps. Feel free to dive in but do so with caution.