When I was in college I was in a writing group with a very smart young woman whose work I liked and who was, besides, considerably more conscientious than I. But there was something in her writing that bothered me: she had written this one character who was supposed to be "quirky." And to indicate that she was quirky, she had a cute quirk: she ate peanut butter out of the jar all the time. And this was a source of bemusement and hilarity to other, less-quirky characters. After a few weeks, I could take it no more.
"Here's the problem, B ----" I said. "This eating peanut butter thing? It's not interesting. It's not quirky. It's not unconventional. Make it Miracle Wip. Make it fluff. Make it tomato paste (my vice -ed.) If you wanna be cute, make it Gentleman's Relish. But this simply isn't working."
Of course, aggressive quirks are lazy anyway. But when they're not even quirky, it's deeply embarrassing for all involved. And this was my biggest problem with 500 Days of Summer, which I finally forced myself to see last night at Cobble Hill Cinema's cheap(ish) night. Yes, it was precious and sophomoric and loaded with the brand of Amazing Girl only Deschanel can sing. Maybe because I was braced for this, it didn't bother me as much as I'd feared. But. Here are the "quirky," "weird" smart-sensitive things they bond over and I kid you not, kid:
1. The Smiths, specifically "There is a Light that Never Goes Out." I actually scrawled on the fly-leaf of my book "ONLY like their biggest radio hit!!!" (Yes, I was alone.)
2. "A Perfect Day for Bananafish."
3. Magritte. And Hopper.
Look, people can have the tastes of high school freshmen for all I care - and who doesn't love The Queen is Dead? - but to hold these things up as obscure indicators of a cultured sensibility had me blushing with shame in my seat.
I had, obviously, other quibbles: the hackneyed "we sell a lie!" tell-off of all the unenlightened suits at the greeting card co. (which, sorry, looked like the best job ever); the straw-man premise that, in fact, cheeky and ironic greeting cards don't make up a big hunk of the business plus about a village's worth of small-press cottage industries; the wise/precocious kid sister; the fact that this flick did for "Sugartown" what Lost in Translation did for "More Than This", that is, instantly removed them from karaoke acceptability forever.
But, I was at least entertained, and not even in a Last Kiss 3-car-pileup way. Deschanel had some good getups, the dude reminded me of my boyfriend, and I laughed once. I'd even go so far as to call it "inoffensive," which I never would have anticipated.
In other news: the bike ride to the theatre was pleasant, and I bought the niftiest, goofiest pair of (maybe 1990) high-waist plaid wool trousers. The shop's owner told me that they were a recent acquisition; she'd bought up the closet of an older lady who was going into a nursing home, the widow of a Madison Avenue advertising executive whose Park Avenue wardrobe was an impeccable archive of 60's-90s UES chic. The lady must have been quite the social X-Ray, as they'll need a deal of hemming. But I hope she knows, somewhere, that her absurd trousers will be treasured. My joy was somewhat punctured when I saw that A) Zooey was wearing similar trousers in the film and B) I'd inadvertently shoplifted a velvet beret from the store. After debating the merits of having Slim plant it, I bit the bullet and sent off a somewhat incoherent email confessing to the unintentional crime. Now I'm wondering if I was framed. But by whom?!