Film

Director Sam Esmail’s Debut Comet Is Beautiful but His Characters Yammer

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Sam Esmail’s first film has a visual assurance that suggests the arrival of a gifted director, but the characters he’s created are so off-putting that viewers aren’t likely to appreciate the beauty surrounding them.

While waiting in line to view a meteor shower, Dell (Justin Long), a hyperactive research scientist, can’t resist putting the moves on the beautifully geeky Kimberly (Emmy Rossum), who’s there on a date. As played by Long, Dell comes across as manic to the point of mental dysfunction, but by evening’s end, Kimberly has ditched her date and literally run off with Dell.

But wait. By the time the two join hands, Esmail has already given us glimpses of their future, in flash-forwards that depict a breakup, a reconciliation that may or may not hold, and an emotionally messy middle.

Esmail and editor Franklin Peterson juggle time with ease, but whether their leads are arguing in a Paris hotel or falling in love (again) on a train, Dell and the increasingly brittle Kimberly never stop yammering, yet rarely say anything worth hearing.

Esmail frames his lovers against landscapes that are richly textured and swooningly romantic, but they prove unworthy of the fuss. Over time, Comet comes to feel like a beautiful hotel without any guests.

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