Submarine Movie Review

[BoxTitle]Submarine[/BoxTitle] [WatchTrailer][/WatchTrailer] [BuyTickets][/BuyTickets]

“Quirky” can be quite the tightrope act, especially when almost every single indie movie about young people describes itself as such. Many of these films present inexplicable (and often obnoxious) behavior as “quirky” (such as Natasha Gregson Wagner boiling her vinyl records on the stove as a form of weirdo protest or something in First Love, Last Rites — and if you’ve even heard of that one, ten points to you) or present impossibly witty characters sharing their impossibly wise observations as “quirky” (such as recent high school graduates Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson spewing their blithe and endless pop philosophies in Ghost World). “Quirky” immediately creates a sense of self-consciousness, that potentially most exhausting of indie-movie characterizations.

However, when “quirky” is done right in an indie movie, it can be inspiring, energizing and exciting. Actually, it can be more than that, dammit — it can completely renew your faith in the miracle that is filmmaking. It can remind you that there are talented and creative people out there who by pure luck and/or the sheer force of their own will were able to scrounge together the ridiculous amount of money and resources it takes to make a movie and were able to release their sweet vision unto the world.

Now, Submarine isn’t quite that kind of movie… but it’s close.

Writer-director Richard Ayoade’s — heh heh — quirky coming-of-age tale definitely has its “influences” (Wes Anderson, without a doubt, and probably Todd Haynes and Mike Leigh as well), but it’s that rare film about being young that actually has something new to say. Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts, who’s gonna be a star) is that rare 15-year-old who is constantly aware of the fleeting nature of his own youth — “None of this will matter when I’m 38” is his existential safety net as he experiences the excitement and terror of first love and tries to come to terms with his parents growing apart. Like Stand by Me, this is a story about kids told from the point of view of an adult — you get a sense that this is Ayoade himself looking back on his childhood, giving his teenage characters a sense of mortality that nonetheless doesn’t trump their naivete or optimism.

It makes for smart and stylish moviemaking. And stylish it most certainly is — this is definitely one for the ADD set, with jump cuts, musical montages and rapid-fire voiceover running to and fro. But unlike Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, which too often mistook postmodern bombasticness for true energy and narrative momentum, Submarine never leaves the “real world” — all of the witty banter and visual playfulness can’t keep back the sense of true human melancholy that’s always waiting just out of frame.

Anyway, go see it. There are genuine laughs to be had, as well as startling observations about love, sex, being young, getting older, living in the past and looking to the future. In the case of Submarine, “quirky” = pretty damn good.

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