I really did not expect to like this movie. I figured it was gonna be like Before Sunrise/Sunset, and was chuckling to myself that it could be subtitled "Sometime Around Mid-day". Maybe it's because I'm in my mid-twenties, maybe it's the particular state of mind I've been in lately, but I've got to say, with only a slight twinge of embarassment, that the movie totally won me over.
It started, curiously enough, with the previews. It was the first time in a long time that I have actually wanted to see the movies advertised by the previews (with the exception of Ira and Abby, which looks like absolute crap*). I had this strange feeling like, wow, these are previews geared towards a specific target audience, and what do you know, apparently I fit into it quite neatly. Yowza.
But anyhow, the movie itself is surprisingly hilarious.
In many ways, it IS similar to the Sunrise/Sunset films, in that it's basically following a couple around and watching them interact. But, as my friend pointed out, whereas those films are about these escapist fantasy relationships that never have to encounter reality, this movie is quite the opposite - it's a couple who is attempting to go on vacation but can't really escape the reality of their day-to-day relationship.
More importantly, though, is that this movie has those same kind of pseudo-philosophical reflections of the Sunrise/Sunset movies - but with a pinch of cynicism. So, for instance, Julie Delpy saying that she learned recently that women use more toilet paper than men because they wipe when they pee, and good god think about the waste and destruction, because she mourns it everytimes she's on the toilet, is something that in the earlier movies would have been uttered earnestly, in a way that would imply that this is a profound thought that the viewer should also consider. Whereas here, it's delivered in the middle of a neurotic outburst and is portrayed as perhaps kind of interesting and charming, but ultimately somewhat silly and melodramatic. Likewise, Julie Delpy responds to Adam Goldberg's obsession with the small world theory not with rapture, but by rolling her eyes and saying, "yeah, ok, it's kind of interesting, but come on, get over yourself". But these ideas aren't totally scoffed at and dismissed (the small world theory, for instance, is cleverly interwoven into the film in a very elegant way, rather than the heavy handed treatment one would expect).
Also, as stated, there are some uproariously funny moments in the film. About 20 minutes in, there's a sequence with the pet cat that is sheer genius. That cat should earn an Oscar for his performance. Seriously, he's amazing. There are so many scenes that, while they may stretch credibility a bit, are wonderfully witty and marvelously amusing. The humor alone makes the movie worth watching.
Finally, though, and here's where my twinge of embarrassment comes in, I think the movie is actually an excellent portrayal of relationships. Aside from the sex scenes, which I found rather obnoxiously ridiculous, I thought that the film captured something really essential about the way that two people in a relationship interact. Not to mention some nice, albeit exaggerated, points about the awkwardness of meeting your partner's family, and the trials and travails of cross-cultural romance. The final scene, especially, which some critics have panned, to me was so incredibly life-like that it was almost uncomfortable to watch.
The New Republic's review (which one should not read before seeing the movie) dogs on the ending of the film as an overly simplistic rushjob, and deplores in particular the way that voice-over narration plays a major role, but in my opinion, the ending is actually quite ambiguous - elegantly so. And I quite appreciated the voice-over, both here, and throughout. I thought it was a clever way of cutting through what could easily have been tedious plot development and condensing it in a really apt way. Actually, re-reading the review now, I'm kind of blown away by how totally off it seems - the guy who wrote it just didn't get the movie at all. Interesting.
I'm curious (maybe for once someone will leave a comment...) how much of my own reaction to this movie is dependent on the stage of life I happen to be in. I can well imagine that in, say, 5 years, I'll look at it the way you look at things you loved when you were 15, but at the same time, what can I say, I think it's a quality flick. Julie Delpy as a director is still, at times, a bit amateurish, and seems like she's trying a little too hard to be artsy, but she also seems to be aware of it and poking fun at her own affectation for much of the film, which goes a long way towards making up for it. So I suspect that while I may, in coming years, look back on the worldview that the movie comes out of with a sense of indulgent nostalgia, I bet I'll still find the funny scenes hilarious.
*Ok, I need to bitch for a minute about Ira and Abby. It's made by the same people who did Kissing Jessica Stein, which is your first red flag. Much like that movie, it seems to basically be a film in which two people are put in a completely preposterous romantic situation and try to actually live it out. The only vaguely interesting thing about it is that it's this attempt to be overly cerebral about love and relationships - like in Kissing Jessica Stein, where the main character decides to try dating women because she's sick of men, as if it were actually that simple. What's really obnoxious about this is that it gets billed as a "modern romance" - as if this completely ridiculous approach somehow captured something authentic about this day and age. Give me a fucking break.