Comet (Sam Esmail, 2014)

As a mildly perceptive and nonlinear dissection of a couple’s six-year relationship, Comet partially engages as pretentiousness gradually stamps out innovation. Focusing on self-aware narcissist Dell (Justin Long) as a fateful run-in with one Kimberly (Emmy Rossum) hesitantly blossoms into a full-on courtship, the film cross-cuts between several almost seismically weighty shared moments of theirs. From Dell’s questionable if successful initial advances to requisite highs and lows, predictability eludes us as a potentially fantastical spin on an otherwise pedestrian narrative comes into play.

Despite earnest attempts to reinvigorate the familiar formula it employs, writer/director Esmail’s script still feels largely inconsequential. Barring the obviousness of a one-fate-or-the-other type conclusion, Comet‘s personality resides primarily within the dialogue-heavy exchanges between its two key players. Although intelligent, parts of these interactions ring a bit false in the realm of authenticity, what with the aforementioned pretentious air about it belying Dell’s narcissism in favor of our annoyance with what we hear. Even still, chemistry between leads is undeniably palpable, allowing us to remain invested in what actually becomes of them.

What Comet assuredly doesn’t handle well is its clumsy implementation of its supposed parallel universe setting. Why does pseudo-scientific bullshit have to play into any of this? Did Esmail think that this sparsely-employed tinge of creativity would solely transcend familiarity? Although omnipresent within its apt-enough presentation, it’s unclear as to how this narrative contrivance actually affects both parties until the absolute tail-end of the film, of which is agreeably compelling based on our inherent desire for closure.

Lacking in terms of persisting romantic realism, Comet is a hit-or-miss affair permeated by semi-incisive tendencies, of which fail to wholly compensate for the glaring aforementioned flaw. When the film’s on it’s on, and I for one applaud Esmail’s skillful illustration of emotionality amid lengthy and occasionally off-putting verbal exchanges. It looks great as it competently conveys the duration and often torrential nature of its core relationship, and although subjectively familiar, Long and Rossum rarely cease to shine as they embody the Hell out of these not-entirely-likable individuals. It scores a fabled “A” for effort, however Comet simply can’t outrun its steadily evolving shortcomings.

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