My capsule review of “Comet” at 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival + Stills

On Wednesday, June 18, 2014 I attended the exciting World Premiere of Comet at the Los Angeles Film Festival. The sold-out event took place at the Regal Cinemas L.A. LIVE. The film was a selection in the Narrative Competition section.

I was weaned on Hitchcock, Serling, and Bradbury, with an unmitigated passion for sci-fi that revolves around alternate universes, amnesia, and time travel. Is he really dead? Was it just a dream? I love movies that play with space and time -- many titles which I cannot even name as their mere mention in the context of discussing the genre can be a spoiler for anyone who hasn't seen them.

But some can be named without spoiling them, as the themes are either widely known or are revealed as the film opens. These include The Butterfly Effect (in which Ashton Kutcher goes back to the past to change the present), The Jacket (a kind of reverse Butterfly Effect in which Adrien Brody goes into the future to change the present), and a movie which sits at or near the top of my all-time favorite films list, Donnie Darko (in which Jake Gyllenhaal, well, we're never quite sure where he goes or why, but he looks good doing it). Gyllenhaal tackles similar themes in the recent Source Code, which is a lot like Tom Cruise's even more recent Edge of Tomorrow. Of course, there's the iconic (and quite dark for its era) The Time Machine and the (much lighter) Back to the Future franchise, both of which send the protagonists forward or backward in time to escape an unexciting and, possibly, dangerous present. Looper's premise is that time travel has been, or will be, invented at some point in the future and we can come back and stop would-be bad guys while they're still good. 

Then there's Groundhog Day, The Sixth Sense, and Jacob's Ladder. I'll also cite two of my personal favorites of recent years, The Abandoned (2006), from Spanish director Nacho Cerdà, and Sean Ellis' 2008 thriller The Broken. In both of those films a woman passes herself on the street. She's either mentally ill or passing through some sort of time warp, and that cuts to the heart of why these projects excite me so much -- they challenge the brain.

Comet takes us in this wonderfully enigmatic direction which, to reassure, is obvious even before the first frame as a title card indicates we're about to slide into parallel universes. Dell and Kimberly (Justin Long and Emmy Rossum) meet cute on a line waiting to get into a meteor shower viewing in a Hollywood cemetery (why not?), followed by haunting glimpses of what may or may not be a developing relationship over the course of the next six years. It's never clear whether we're seeing different versions of the same life or abbreviated glimpses of the past as our memory selectively chooses what it wishes to recall. Either way it's tantalizing, and Long & Rossum are delightful enough that we happily go along for the cerebral ride.  

This is the debut feature for writer/director Sam Esmail and one has to wonder if he's been living in an alternate universe himself, popping out award-winning scripts for years. Comet's look is breathtaking, owing much to the hands of cinematographer Eric Koretz, on only his fourth feature as D.P., and Production Designer Annie Spitz, who worked on some of my favorite festival films of the past decade, including 50/50, Cyrus, and The Wackness. The yeoman's task of making this complex storyline watchable and coherent fell to editor Franklin Peterson (I Love You Phillip Morris, The Last Exorcism, Unknown, Beastly, Safety Not Guaranteed). Comet was originally a linear story before Esmail and Peterson boldly shuffled the deck. Finally, it's the rare movie (especially in the indie world) whose original score is so dramatic, so moving and emotional, that it elevates the work to a loftier level. Such is the case with Comet, whose composer Daniel Hart grabbed my heart and never let go.     

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NOTE: I've selected Comet as one of my Top Picks from the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival. The producers are awaiting a domestic distribution deal.

A set of official stills is below.





Author

Larry Richman

Larry Richman

For 20 years I was a professional in the entertainment industry, from commercial broadcast radio in America's fourth largest market to band management to record production. But my passion is independent film, and I spend much of the year traveling to film festivals to see indies and meet the actors, directors, and others responsible for creating them. I'm a writer, photographer, and videographer, currently serving as Senior Vice President for Media & Technology and Public Relations at PROnetworks as well as Editor at Larry411.com

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