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The Summer House

It's Robert Pattinson before he was Edward, but sort of was already.

The Summer House

Director: Daisy Gili
Cast: Robert Pattinson, Talulah Riley, Anna Calder-Marshall, David Burke
Rated: NR
Studio: Shorts International
Year: 2008
US date: 2010-07-13 (iTunes)

"Looks like a girl with that hair!" And with that, Freddie (David Burke) pretty much sums up the appeal of Robert Pattinson. The idea in The Summer House is that Freddie knows whereof he speaks, having once been a beautiful young man himself, and, like Pattinson/his character Richard, British to boot. Apparently, this combination is irresistible to lovely young girls.

Scheduled for release on iTunes on 13 July, The Summer House means to exploit those girls' desire for all things Pattinson, even a short film he made in 2008, and in which he appears for about two of the 12 minutes running time. His scant performance is ideal for the film's focus on his effect on one girl in particular, 17-year-old Jane (Talulah Riley), just arrived at the titular house owned by her Aunt Priscilla (Anna Calder-Marshall), located in "France 1969." Richard's a former flame, and when Freddie notes his hair, poor Jane has just spent 20 or so seconds in conversation with him at the estate gate, shot from such a distance that it's actually hard to tell what his hair looks like.

Still, Richard does put on that Edwardish slouch, all bent neck and lowered eyes, his appeal left an apt mystery for the adults. As Jane runs from the gate back to the lawn table where the grownups await, she looks thunderstruck: her eyes are wet and arms and legs flail like the gawky girl she's supposed to be. It's not clear what Richard has said or done to upset her, only that she is upset.

Luckily, Priscilla has just the antidote, a set of frocks for Jane to try on and a raft of compliments to go with. Jane's figure is perfect for a "simple" sheath dress, her hair will be great if she puts it up. She will look perfect when Richard makes his way back to the estate later that night, past the (close-ups of) stone statues and bright green trees. And she will wow the nameless guests when she descends the stairs during Priscilla's Moon Landing Party. This would be the film's Major Metaphor, underlined by scritchy audio-recordings of the crew's memorable narration ("The Eagle has landed"), along with a series of significant images, say the moon viewed from earth and the moon viewed from the lunar module.

It's hardly surprising that the most effusive use of this metaphor involves Richard, whose beautiful face is superimposed over the moon and a letter he's written to Jane, on paper decorated with hearts and stars. His face both too close and partially obscured, Richard is offered up as an ideal object of young girls' desire -- forever distant, resiliently elusive, utterly attractive. In this state of perpetual adolescent limbo, he is also quite "like a girl," unthreatening to youthful swooners everywhere.

This one moment, when the youngsters hide away in the dark and lose track of the moon landing, is exactly why this teeny bit of movie is now available for purchase on iTunes. As fine as Riley's performance may be, she's irrelevant, except as she stands in for girls who want to be her, with Edward/Richard leaning into her pale, pearl-adorned neck, murmuring romantic nothings. But before anyone can get too excited, the moment is past. Unlike Bella, Jane makes a choice.


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