Ignore the title and see it anyway
The opening is hypnotic, a long-haired Cameron Diaz dancing on a ledge atop some cliffs, seemingly in a world of her own. We learn soon that this is Faith, and that she died at the foot of those same cliffs.
The story is told through the eyes of Faith's sister. Phoebe was young enough at the time of her sister's death for it to be a strong influence on her as she grew up.
And, ironically, it was their father's death that had spurred Faith to live her life on the edge, eventually leaving to Europe with her boyfriend Wolf, only to meet her destiny there.
Living as just half a family for so many years has created a safe, insular life for the survivors, and a yearning in Phoebe to understand, and after things bubble to the surface, Phoebe runs off to trace her sister's footsteps through Europe.
Generally, I avoid giving out so many details about a film. It's just a reflection of my personal preference to know as little about what I'm going to see before I see it. I liked to be surprised, you see. The reason why I bother with this detail? It's to explain what you're in for. The story is cerebral, and the plot shifts through time between the journeys of our two sisters.
I first saw this film at the 2001 Sundance Festival, and found myself disagreeing with a lovely young lady about the title of this film. Susan, if you happen to ever lay your eyes on this, I still maintain it's not a very good one. Granted, the title comes from the novel by Jennifer Egan this was based upon. Still, a film has to stand on its own, and a title, while peripheral, contributes to its success, or failure. Now, it's not an inappropriate title, referring to something specific about the movie that does touch thematically with what we're watching. The problem is twofold - the first is the obvious confusing nature of it. More importantly though, it's inexact, relating more to the origins of the story than to it as a whole. I'm not offering a better title here, and I know it's a chore (which I particularly hate), but I feel like some more effort would have resulted in something better suited.
It is interesting to note that Adam Brooks, our director and the one responsible for the screenplay adaptation, said in the Q&A session at Sundance that "spontaneous is what other people are doing". While not really a title, it is, in fact, closer to what the film's about.
The acting is great. For her first leading role, Jordana Brewster has put in an amazing performance. Cameron Diaz also has kept her eye out for more interesting roles, and she's not just a pretty face - the only problem is she's called to play her character at an age just under what she can reasonably look like.
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