Given that they premiered alongside each other at Sundance, Jay DiPietro’s temporally scrambled romance Peter and Vandy is doomed to languish in the shadow of (500) Days of Summer, like a younger sibling whose teachers constantly remind him what a good student his brother was. But DiPietro’s variation on a similar theme doesn’t entirely suffer in comparison.
Like (500 Days), DiPietro’s film, which he adapted from his 2002 play, rearranges the chronology of the titular relationship so that the breakup and meet-cute bump up against each other. The sweetness of Weixler’s pillow-talk profession of love is undercut when we see the awkward encounter that preceded it, the stunned, almost horrified look on her face when Ritter abruptly blurts out the same three words. Minor incidents accrue greater significance when shuffled out of context; an off-color joke about foul-smelling Thai food becomes the pivot point for a cataclysmic argument weeks or months later.
The movie’s instinct to mine quotidian exchanges for signs of collapse is a sound one, but DiPietro can’t resist loading the deck. An argument over the proper way to make a PB&J explodes into a full-throated shouting match, which only underlines the shallowness of Ritter’s performance. Rather than a well-meaning romantic with underlying commitment issues, he comes off as a moody, petulant jerk, although the real fault lies with the arbitrariness of his plot-driven crises. The movie’s saving grace is Weixler, who manages to seem effortlessly natural without resorting to whiny faux naturalism. As she did in Teeth, Weixler grounds an otherwise glib conceptual exercise through the force of her presence. Unfortunately here she’s sharing the lead.
For all its superficial complexity, DiPietro’s approach is actually the opposite of challenging. Rather than prompting the audience to think back and figure out when the cracks begin to show, he does the work for us; once the pieces get put together, there’s nothing left to see.