Beth Accomando on Friday, Jun. 24th
Somewhere in the space between “Gregory’s Girl” and “Rushmore” lies “Submarine” (opening June 24 at Landmark’s Hillcrest Cinemas), a charming coming of age romantic comedy.
Not being a fan of romantic comedies, “Submarine” wasn’t really on my radar… until I found out that Richard Ayoade was directing. Back in 2004, Ayoade co-created and directed an odd little gem for British TV called “Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace.” Some FaceBook friends in Wales sent me the DVD of the show as a birthday present and I was enthralled with its quirky, parched dry parody of 80s TV hospital dramas. Knowing he was involved in the adaptation of Joe Dunthorne’s book suddenly got me excited about the film.
“Submarine” has the goofy charm of “Gregory’s Girl” with the offbeat style of “Rushmore.” It’s probably the best romantic comedy since “(500) Days of Summer.” Oliver is a fun character in part because he is so unreliable as our narrator. The story is told through his eyes but he doesn’t always report the facts and the discrepancy between fact and fiction is part of the fun. Like Jason Schwatrzman’s Max in “Rushmore,” Oliver is prone to misinterpreting things and creating elaborate plans based on his misinterpretations. At times his plans feel like Rube Goldberg devices that are destined to fall apart at some point.
Another entertaining aspect of the film is Oliver’s obsession with film and his tendency to portray his life as if it were some French New Wave film. As Ayoade proved with “Darkplace,” he’s adept at parody. So in “Submarine,” he plays knowingly and humorously off of film styles and genres as he presents Oliver’s point of view. In the press notes. Ayoade even cites Eric Rohmer as a big influence because that’s reflective of Oliver’s character. He also not afraid to let Oliver be a bit of a jerk at times, although in the end we have great affection for the character despite his numerous flaws.
Here’s a note “written” by Oliver for the press notes: “I have been waiting too long for the film of my life. My name is Oliver Tate. This film will capture my idiosyncrasies, for example, the way I seduce my classmate Jordana Bevan using only my mind. Also, since my parents’ marriage is being threatened by a man who runs courses on Mental and Physical Well-being, the film will probably feature some elaborate set-pieces of me taking him down. There will be helicopter shots. There will be slow-mo, but also transcendent moments, like when I cure my father’s depression.”
He concludes with “appropriate adjectives” to describe his film such as “breath-taking,” “irresistible,” and “a monumental achievement.” That pretty much sums up the tone of the film’s narration. Oliver has quite an inflated view of himself and the film captures that to perfection. And while I might not call it breathtaking or monumental, I would call it clever, fun, and wonderfully entertaining.
For more, visit KPBS.org’s Cinema Junkie.