Marc Webb’s directorial debut, 500 Days of Summer, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel in the titular roles, was lauded as one of the best films of 2009 and was almost unanimously praised by critics for its screenplay, lighthearted comedy, and a non-linear narrative structure that was mostly unheard of for romantic movies. It drew comparisons to classics such as Annie Hall and High Fidelity in the process and is now very much a cult classic. But as it is the case with practically every movie, there are those who did not see what all the hype was about. Aspiring writer/director Austyn Jeffs is one of them. In fact, Jeff’s disdain for the film is so pronounced, he went ahead and made a spoof of it, Double Eagle Ranch, which he says calls out the protagonist as the “possessive, self-centered a*****e” that he is.”
Unlike its “inspiration,” Double Eagle Ranch does not follow a non-linear narrative structure and is, in fact, pretty straightforward in how it tells its story, except for a few odd cutscenes in between. It doesn’t rely on any fancy, over-the-top locations or revolutionary cinematography to make its point. Instead, it uses a simple but nonetheless entertaining premise to push home its point: that there is no panacea to relationships woes, and that sometimes, maybe it’s best to let go.
The characters in the movie are very well-crafted and developed. Marc (Kyle Cooper) represents all the values that Jeff felt Gordon-Levitt’s Tom Hansen portrayed quite blatantly in 500 Days of Summer — he is a selfish, narcissistic, possessive a*****e (the last of which is referenced numerous times in the movie) who refuses to accept his wrongs and who “judges people so hard it’s exhausting.” He’s a Ted Mosby-type (from How I Met Your Mother), in the sense that he’s frustrating and infuriating, but at the same time, well-meaning.
Lyndsey Doolen’s Lindsay, who herself comes across as quite self-important, complements Marc well in this regard. The couple of Joe Hartzler’s Jeff Pearson, the polar opposite of Marc and the quintessential nice guy, and Melissa Hunter’s Ren, a sweet and overexcited woman, provides the perfect and contradictory foil for the story to unfold. Special mentions also go to Devon (Julian Huguet) for his awkward but endearing charm, and Hemingway (real name Mr. Higgins) because he was an embodiment of Marc’s a*****e-ness in furry form…and also because I have a soft spot for cats.
Double Eagle Ranch goes out of its way to parody the Marc Webb comedy. While 500 Days of Summer has all these deep and so-called enlightening moments where the character finds himself/herself, Jeffs undercuts every poignant and heartfelt scene with d**k and erection jokes. It might also have something to do with the MPAA ratings of each because 500 Days of Summer is a PG-13 movie, while Double Eagle Ranch felt more of a soft R rating. 500 Days of Summer isn’t really parodying anything, rather it’s just telling an original story about a woman who doesn’t believe true love exists and the young man who falls for her. Double Eagle Ranch is more satirical in its approach and even on the romantic comedy genre as a whole.
Include the rant about c***s and you can see why Jeffs described his movie as a “romantic comedy” for the post #metoo movement — it’s one that very much encourages conversation but insists that it be done with the right tone. The tone that Jeffs is laying the groundwork for is interesting because while it’s attempting to poke fun at the genre of romantic comedy, it’s saying a lot about our culture trends in a post setting. The tone could be interpreted as comical, but there’s some sincerity and something honest in the way he’s telling the story.
It’s a difficult movie to poke holes into, but yes, there are a few. For instance, choppy editing at certain points meant you felt it abruptly jumped from one scene to the next. Similar to 500 Days of Summer, it’s almost as if the filmmakers were trying to tell a similar story or attempting at parodying it. There was a general confusion on its direction and “filler scenes” that did little to add to the story. This, in turn, reflected poorly on the run-time, which, at a little over an hour and 40 minutes, felt unnecessarily long and drawn out.
All in all, Double Eagle Ranch navigates the pitfalls, whether it’s the choppy editing, scenes that felt out place, or perhaps the expansion of the runtime, that new-age parodies often fall prey to masterfully. The dialogue is gorgeously written, hard-hitting, and is sprinkled with the acerbic wit and heavy doses of sarcasm that seem to be second nature to Jeffs. The music is on point as well. And yes, there are the meta jokes, but the over-the-top, scarcely believable characters that look woefully out of place are thankfully absent and are, instead, replaced by genuine people who each go through a journey of self-introspection and self-discovery.
Available for streaming on various platforms beginning August 6th, 2019.
Final Score: 4 out of 5.