Movie Reviews: Death In Love, 500 Days of Summer, Severed Ways 

Also, The Poker House, The Queen and I, and more

Wednesday, Jul 15 2009


On the heels of his promising 1994 indie debut Fresh, Boaz Yakin delivered a hatefully stacked deck against Orthodox Jewry with A Price Above Rubies (1998). Then he went to Hollywood, and, by his own self-lacerating account, sold out. As it turns out, the workmanlike Uptown Girls and Remember the Titans were masterpieces of cinema compared with this misbegotten retreat into self-financed auteurism. Not since Liliana Cavani’s epically stupid The Night Porter has a filmmaker so wantonly ripped off the Holocaust for the unsavory purpose of strutting his unprocessed sadomasochistic fantasies. Yakin is a slick director of actors, which means that Jacqueline Bisset and Josh Lucas are disconcertingly good as a New York Jewish mother destroyed by a long-ago concentration camp affair with a Nazi doctor, and the charming but feckless son poisoned by her baleful influence. Masquerading as brave provocation, Death in Love is an incoherent stew of twisted sex, diabolical surgery, existential despair and oedipal rage, punctured by feeble excursions into genre with the absurd arrival of an elderly stranger given to throwing men off tall buildings. Someday, a wise and potent film will be made about the Holocaust’s legacy on succeeding generations. Posing as a study in evil, Death in Love is claptrap that confuses bile with art. (Music Hall; Town Center 5) (Ella Taylor)

Seemingly similar to most factory-made rom-coms, former music-video director Marc Webb’s first feature is actually far less interested in the will-they-or-won’t-they and more concerned with the why-can’t-they. Its lovers — Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Tom and Zooey Deschanel’s Summer, natch — are perfect for each other, yet are perhaps still not meant to be. He is forever in search of his soulmate, influenced by too much mid-’80s Britpop and an incorrect reading of The Graduate’s finale. She insists she’s looking only for a commitment-free good time, no doubt the result of a childhood spent being the object of everyone’s affection. Webb, working from a screenplay by the men responsible for The Pink Panther 2, employs a storytelling gimmick to render his movie palatably unconventional. The director introduces us to Tom and Summer mid-breakup, then takes us back to the moment when they share their first glance, then back and forth and back and forth and beyond, till each glimpse is recontextualized and thus reconsidered. Very Sundance-y. But the real surprise of (500) Days of Summer isn’t the presentation — this isn’t exactly Steven Soderbergh or Alejandro González Iñárritu territory here. It’s more like a love story in a blender. What is unexpected is the sincerity beneath the modest conceit that, yup, love hurts. (AMC Century 15; The Landmark; Arclight Hollywood; The Grove) (Robert Wilonsky)

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