Thursday, April 23, 2020

One Day

The Sun is Also a Star
Director: Ry Russo-Young
Cast: Yara Shahidi, Charles Melton, John Leguizamo
Released: May 17, 2019

This is a movie based on a young adult book by Nicola Yoon, who also wrote Everything, Everything; another movie I also reviewed (and read the book). Even though Everything, Everything is her first novel, I read The Sun is Also a Star first and since I liked it a lot, I read her first book, but didn't really care for it (or the movie). The movie version of The Sun.... is not as good as the book, but it's better than Everything, Everything. I think the actors portraying the romantic couple in it have more chemistry than the two actors portraying the romantic couple in Everything, Everything. But I could just be biased since I liked that story better.

I read The Sun is Also a Star in the summer of 2018. I was a little worried I wouldn't have enough time to read it because I had checked out three or four other books from the library at the time and by the time I got to it, it was due in two days! Usually you can re-check a book three of four times! Now it is possible I did recheck this one at least once, but I noticed there were a few people waiting for it and if there's a certain amount of people waiting for a book, they don't let you re-check it. You have to return it so those people get a chance to read it. True, I could had just returned it, then checked it out again, but I decided to see how much of it I could read before I had to return it to the library. The book is 384 pages, which is quite a lot! But luckily for me, it read very fast and I was able to finish it in in time. The POV switches back and forth from the two main characters and a few other characters. The book is definitely better than the movie, but that's not surprising. This is a story that takes places in a day. You have 384 pages of the book to get to know these characters and read their story while you only get almost two hours for the movie. While you get to spend a day with these characters in the book and the movie, the day they spend together in the movie is truncated.

The day begins with seventeen-year-old Natasha (played by Yara Shahidi; she's the oldest daughter on Black-ish) going to an immigration office because her family is being deported to Jamaica tomorrow. She has lived in New York City since she was eight and is trying to find a way to be able to stay. Her parents have Jamaican accents, but she has a very American accent. I assume her younger brother, who moved to the U.S. when he was four, does too, but I honestly can't remember if he even has any lines. We will find out later that her dad works in a kitchen at a restaurant and he was there when ICE did a random raid and that is why they're being deported. I do not know when this happened, but they are scheduled to leave the country tomorrow. In the book, her father was pulled over for drunk driving and that is when it is revealed his visa had expired. (I admit I had to look this up because I didn't remember everything since I read the book a year and a half ago!) It was not clear in the movie if the family had a visa and it had expired or they had been in the country illegally all that time. I suspect they didn't want the negative aspect of the father driving drunk so they changed that. And that they didn't have time to really focus on the parents like they do in the book. The guy tells her there's nothing he can do, but she's going to be okay because she's going to Jamaica (cue Beach Boys song here) and not some godforsaken place like Syria or Afghanistan. She is not happy by this and tells him she's sick of people telling her it's going to be okay, so that is what her parents must keep telling her. He gives her the number of an immigration lawyer, Jeremy Martinez, who does pro bono work and if there's anyone who can help her, it would be him. She calls the number and his secretary tells her he's extremely busy today. After begging, the secretary tells her she can have fifteen minutes with him at noon, during his lunch break, and Natasha is satisfied with that. Throughout the movie we will see her keeping in touch with her parents via texts and phone calls. They want her home so she can start packing, but it will be awhile before she actually goes home.

Then we are introduced to our main character, Daniel (played by Charles Melton; he plays Reggie on Riverdale, a show I have never seen. I figured since I've seen The Vampire Diaries, I'm good and I don't need to see this show. I don't know why I'm comparing those shows together; I just feel like they're probably pretty similar....there's probably vampires and witches in Riverdale, right?? IDK! I do know the Reggie character because I know the theme song to the animated show: "Archie's here, Betty's here, Veronica too; Reggie's here...") Anyhoo...Daniel is a seventeen-year-old Korean-American who has an interview with Dartmouth College later on that day, except it's not really affiliated with the college, so it's kind of confusing, but I'll come back to that when we get there. His parents, who came to New York from South Korea, think it's very important that he become a doctor and that he do well at his interview. He has an older brother, Charlie, who's a bit of a douche and a bully. While they try to give him somewhat of an important role, he is much more fleshed out in the book. I had to laugh when he pronounces Dartmouth as "Dart Mouth." It reminded me of that episode of Boy Meets World where Eric pronounces Yale as "Yah-lay" (and poor Mr. Feeny is just giving him an exasperated look!). Of course, Charlie was just being facetious while dumb-ass Eric legitimately thought that was how Yale was pronounced!

Daniel's appointment isn't until later, so he's just going to chill with his friend for now. I don't know. They're on the subway, which Natasha is also on, listening to her headphones, but at the moment neither of them are aware of the other. The subway suddenly stops and the motorman comes over the intercom to calm everyone and tell them a story. He tells them he usually takes his daughter to school every morning and one day he was late because he was talking to his friend and they missed the train. While he's saying this part, everyone looks pretty irritated or impatient as they look at the time on their phones and just want the train to get fixed and be on their way. You know, typical New Yorkers. One guy says, "Shut up, a**hole" which makes Daniel and his friend crack up. But when the motorman reveals the day they were late happened to be 9/11 (THE 9/11), everyone looks super solemn and/or guilty for having the reactions they did. The guy who called him an a**hole looks super guilty; Daniel and his friend immediately wipe the smirks off their face. And of course it is revealed that the guy's friend worked at the World Trade Center and because he missed the subway, he missed work, and thus he survived a day he otherwise probably would have died. There's a moral to his story as he tells them, "Don't panic because of you being late. You never know why you were meant to be here at this time." Now if the train being late had caused Daniel to meet Natasha because perhaps she was on a different train and now they ran into each other because of it, that would make sense, but they're both on the same train and they don't even meet at this moment, but whatever, I'm just being finicky. The motorman ends with what sounds like a fortune you would find in a fortune cookie: "Always remember to open up your heart to destiny." It's probably not more than five minutes later when Daniel will repeat this line to his friend who doesn't even remember what he's talking about and therefore Daniel has to remind him (and the audience, I'm sure) it's the last thing the motorman said.

So what happens is that Daniel and his friend (can you tell I don't remember his friend's name? It's probably because after this scene we will never see, hear, or speak of him again!) are on the upper level of Grand Central Station people-watching the patrons below them. This is when Daniel notices Natasha who is looking up. She's not looking at them, but I guess there are images of the constellations at GCS that she was staring at. He notices her and thinks she's very pretty and likes that she took the time to look up, because most people don't look up. (Well, duh, why would they?) When she turns around, he notices the back of her jacket says "Deus ex Machina", the exact same phrase he had written down in his journal that very morning. Dun, dun, dun! This is when he repeats the "Always remember to open up your heart to destiny" line. He thinks this is a sign and has to meet this girl. They go downstairs, but since this is Grand Central Station, it's super crowded and she has seemed to vanish into thin air. Rejected, he gets on the subway after parting ways with his friend and who does he see on the next car? Yep, Natasha. Now I don't know if he was originally going to get off at the same stop that she does, but something tells me no because he is running fast after her to make sure he doesn't lose her in the crowd. I do find it a little problematic that at this point he's basically following her. He will notice that she's about to cross a street and get run over by a car that's going crazy fast and because she's lost in thought listening to her headphones (probably listening to Nirvana because in the book she's a Kurt Cobain fan), she's not paying attention and he runs and pulls her back to safety. So basically she has no idea that he was actually following her. The car scene does happen in the book, but I don't think he was following her, but maybe I just don't remember. This whole thing is about chance meetings and fate and destiny (think of this as Serendipity for teens), so wouldn't it have been better if they both got off at the stop and he never saw her on the subway? Honestly, this just makes him look like a total creeper. And that's not good.

After he pulls her back on the sidewalk, she takes off her headphones and says the super cliched line, "You saved my life. Thank you." They introduce each other then sit down to talk in a nearby park because I guess you're required to sit and talk with your life saver? IDK! For their first conversation, the topic is pretty heavy: love. Natasha asks him what he has in his notebook and he tells her he writes poems, mostly about love. So...a) what modern teenager carries around a notebook? None, I'm sure, and b) What modern teenager wants to be a poet? Now this will make sense in the course of the movie and will come full circle, but I don't buy that "I want to be a poet" crap. Because nobody wants to be a poet. Like, for an actual career. Maybe for a hobby sure, but this dude wants to make a career out of it. Give me a break. Daniel quickly learns that Natasha might not be as romantic as he hoped. She tells him that she doesn't believe in love, saying, "If you can't use a scientific method on it, then it's not real." When he questions her, she tells him what people are feeling when they feel love are hormones and says, "We just call it "love" so that we have something grand to live for. Otherwise, life seems really mundane and a random series of events that you have no control over until you die." Cue the violin opening to "Bitter Sweet Symphony". This is when he gets up, tells her it was nice meeting her, and goes on his merry way. No, that doesn't happen, but it would be pretty amusing (and a short movie!) if it did. No, instead Daniel is up to the challenge and tells her he can get her to fall in love with him if she gives him one day. If I were Natasha, I would have laughed in his face, but instead she tells him she doesn't have a day. When he asks her if she has an hour (an hour! Good Lord, not even Romeo and Juliet fell in love within an hour!) she decides to humor him.

They go to a small eatery called Caffe Reggio where they have lunch. Natasha's mom calls to tell her she wants her home to start packing and she tells her she will come home after her appointment at noon. Daniel gets a call from his interview asking him if they can reschedule it for tomorrow morning and he is happy to oblige so he can spend time with Natasha. While they eat lunch, Daniel tells Natasha about a study where researchers put a bunch of couples in a lab and had them ask each other thirty-six intimate questions. Natasha's reply is, "Sounds ridiculous." Really? Is it really that ridiculous? What is so ridiculous about it? This girl would irritate me in real life, I think. He asks her a few random ones, starting with "Where are the five key ingredients to falling in love?" The nerdy girl has a very nerdy answer: "Mutual self-interest and socioeconomic compatibility." Apparently she doesn't know how to count because she doesn't give three more. But, yikes! Those aren't terrible things, but they seem pretty pedestrian. Daniel's answers are a little better. Well, most of them, anyway: "Friendship and chemistry, some sort of moral compass, common interests, and the X factor." When Natasha asks what the X factor is (yes I'd like to know that, too), Daniel replies with, "Don't worry. We've got it." My eyes rolled at that. Such lazy writing. They've known each other less than a hour and he's claiming they have "The X factor?"

They talk about their futures and what they want to do. Natasha tells Daniel that she wants to be a data scientist (such a nerd!), someone who "takes large amounts of data and strategizes on how to apply it practically." Daniel tells her about the interview he has with Dartmouth and how his parents want him to be a doctor and how important it it to them he become one. But he would rather be a poet and his parents don't approve of that. 

Natasha's appointment is soon and they walk to it together. Daniel recognizes it is as the same place his interview will take place tomorrow (but was originally scheduled for the same time as her appointment) and tells her, "You have to admit this proves my point: fate is real." Natasha says it was just a coincidence. When she goes in for her appointment, Mr. Martinez's secretary tells her that he was hit by a car when he was biking to work (the very same car that almost hit Natasha, in fact, Daniel sees him clip a guy on a bike first, then realizes he's about to hit Natasha) and won't be in until 4:30 since he's at the hospital. Daniel is waiting for her in the lobby and is thrilled when he realizes they have four more hours to spend together, but Natasha tells him she has to go home because her parents are expecting her. When she tells him it takes about an hour to get home and another hour to return, he points out that doesn't make sense to be wasting all that time and she agrees with him, so she calls her parents to let them know she won't be coming home until later.

Daniel needs to drop off something for his father at his parents' store which sells black hair care products. Natasha is incredulous that his parents own a black hair care store, but he explains to her that it's really not that uncommon for Koreans. She doesn't get the best first impression from his family, unfortunately. She and Daniel share a moment where they're about to kiss right in the middle of an aisle, but Charlie, his douchey brother, interrupts them and accuses Natasha of being a shoplifter. When Daniel introduces Natasha to his dad, Mr. Bae offers her a relaxer for her hair so it won't be so big and she tells him she likes her hair. I mean, I think the girl wouldn't have it that way if she didn't like it! Of course Daniel is just cringing during this whole exchange. Unwoke parents can be the worst!

To kill the rest of the time, they go to a planetarium (Natasha's idea, of course) and hold hands as they look up at the screen. This is when they start to become touchy-feel-y and when they're on the subway, she has her head on his shoulder and she's playing with his hair. They have a conversation about poetry and Natasha complains that whenever she reads a poem it's usually about one of three things: love, sex, or the stars. This is when we get our film's title (well, sort of) when she says, "Why not more poems about the sun? The sun's also a star." Yep. She used a contraction. The title is The Sun IS Also a Star; not The Sun's Also a Star. I mean, really, you think they would have the actress say the actual title right! Also, I'm pretty sure if you looked hard enough, there are plenty of poems about the sun out there. If I really cared, I would try to find a few, but I don't really care that much to look for poetry.

They next go to Korean karaoke which is called Noraebang and is a bit different from the karaoke most people are used to as they have their own private room. I'm pretty sure this is a challenge they've done on The Amazing Race when they've been in Seoul. I remember contestants having to memorize a song in Korean, then having to perform it. I get having a private room if you're a small group, but with two people? That's just super weird. I do remember this scene in the book when Daniel sings Abba's "Take a Chance On Me", a super corny song choice and a bit on the nose. They must have thought the same thing when they were making the movie because he sings "Crimson and Clover" instead. As he's singing the song, we see flash forwards of Natasha imagining what their life could be like if she is able to stay in New York. We see them dating, getting married, having children, the whole she-bang. I would be super embarrassed if some guy I just met that day was singing to me in this intense way, but she is eating it up. In fact, when he's done singing, they just go at it and start making out. Now it makes sense why they need a private venue! She freaks out when her phone beeps, alerting her that her appointment is in half an hour and she is brought back down to reality and runs out. Daniel runs after her, asking her what's wrong. She drops the big bomb, telling him she will probably never see him again because she wasn't born in this country and her family is being deported tomorrow.

They part ways and Natasha goes to her immigration appointment with Jeremy Martinez who is played by John Leguizamo, easily the biggest name in the movie. He gives her a glimmer of hope when he tells her he had a chance to review her file and he's going to see the judge who issued the removal order. He knows that judge and think he might be able to file a motion to reopen the case so she won't have to leave tomorrow. He's playing it close with time because he won't have an answer from the judge until the next morning and wants to meet her again at ten. If everything works out, he will ask for a new trial and submit a petition for permanent resident status for her and her family.

With a new burst of hope in her, Natasha wants to reconnect with Daniel, but doesn't have his number, so she goes back to his parents' store where Charlie is at the cash register. She asks him for his brother's number and while he gives her a bit of crap, he easily gives it to her. So she calls Daniel and apologizes and they meet up again. They hang out some more and talk some more and kiss some more. They end up going to Roosevelt Island where they end up spending the night in a park which doesn't seem like a very safe thing to do. Also, I'm surprised nobody noticed they were roughing it outside.

They wake up  the next morning a little after seven and they need to hurry because Daniel's interview is at eight. This dude spent the night outside, is wearing the same outfit he wore yesterday, and hasn't taken a shower in god knows how long. You know he reeks. And he's going to an important interview that will determine his future. So get turns out his interview is with Jeremy Martinez. Why is an immigration lawyer giving an interview with a kid who wants to attend Dartmouth? Why is the interview being held at this place? I really have no idea. I mean, it will be for the sake of the story because Natasha will barge in later, wanting to know if her family can stay and they (Daniel and Natasha) will just stare at each other and take it as another sign that they're meant to be together. But yeah, it makes no sense the same guy who is giving Natasha legal advice is also a Dartmouth rep. Unfortunately he tells Natasha that her family is unable to stay and of course this makes her upset. She puts the blame on Daniel telling him, "You promised this wasn't going to happen." Yeah, he did say that to her. Pretty stupid thing to say.

It's only now that Natasha realizes that she should probably call her parents to tell therm she's okay and on her way home. She hasn't been in touch with them since yesterday; maybe right before they went to Roosevelt Island, I can't exactly remember the last time we saw her contact them. She must have turned off her phone because surely her parents have been trying to get in touch with her. She brings Daniel with her and naturally her parents are upset with her. Daniel tries to intervene and tell them it's his fault, but her dad shuts it down. Yeah, I'd be pretty annoyed if my kid was out all night when they were supposed to be home packing and then have the gall to bring some random kid home with them and call them their "guest".

Earlier in the movie when Daniel was telling Natasha about the experiment scientists did with couples that she called "ridiculous", after they had asked and answered their questions, they were supposed to stare into each other's eyes for four minutes so that's what they do outside the airport. (Guess Natasha's parents were cool that he tagged along!) If I saw two people outside an airport holding hands and staring into each other's eyes without saying anything, I would probably roll my own eyes. Thankfully we don't have to see the full four minutes. Instead we see flash forwards of what their lives actually turn out to be: Natasha looks to be an astronomy teacher (I thought she wanted to be a data scientist?) and Daniel is a poet. At the end of the four minutes she tells Daniel that she loves him and he tells her that the experiment worked. Well, it did and it didn't.

The movie fast forwards five years later and we see Natasha back at Caffe Reggio listening to live music. She is meeting Mr. Martinez there and we learn her student visa came through for her to attend grad school at Berekely where she will be flying out the next day. She asks Martinez if she remembers Daniel Bae and if he knows any way of contacting him because she can't find him online and it's almost like he vanished. Okay. Hold the phone. In what world, in this century, in this year, would a twenty-something not have some form of social media? It would be odd for a thirty, forty, of even fifty something not to have some kind of social media or email address. I call total BS on this. I can't remember exactly how this happened in the book, because they do lose touch with each other after Natasha goes to Jamaica. If the two young girls from Beaches in the late '50s can keep a correspondence with each other, then there's no excuse two teens from the twenty-teens can't stay in touch with each other!

Well, wouldn't you know, when Natasha is about to leave, we see Daniel, who works at the cafe, take off his apron (I guess he was on his break when Natasha ordered?) and tell the audience he's going to read a poem about the sun. The very first poem ever written about the sun, apparently! Natasha turns around and they see each other and smile at each other, then kiss, which is super weird. If I haven't seen somebody in five years who I only spent one day with, I certainly wouldn't just start making out with them. I guess neither of them are in relationships at that moment. Natasha tells him she only has one day and he replies he only needs one day. We never hear his poem about the sun. In the book, ten year passes and they're both on the same airplane and there's no reunion kiss.

If you've read the book, you might enjoy the movie, but just know the book is much better. 

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