Soundtracking is a regular column that appears on Cineplex.com looking at the music featured in the biggest new releases both in theatre and on home video. Shane McNeil honours Valentine’s Day with a look at the on-screen musical stylings of uber-crush Zooey Deschanel.
It’s not always easy to pin-point where the crush started, but there’s no denying that at some point nearly everyone has been in love with Zooey Deschanel.
In recent years, Deschanel has been easy to locate, appearing weekly on the small screen with “New Girl.” However, she so quietly went from the background to the spotlight that it’s hard to pinpoint when she made her first impression.
For many, that breakthrough was Cameron Crowe’s 2000 autobiopic, Almost Famous.
Her role as William Miller’s older sister/spirit guide has faded into the background of the film’s lore, eclipsed over the past 15 years in turn by Frances McDormand’s commanding motherly presence, Kate Hudson’s “band-aid” breakthrough and Philip Seymour Hoffman’s manic incarnation of Lester Bangs.
But it was actually Deschanel’s Anita that got the story in motion. She leaves home, but leaves her records behind and opens her brother’s mind to a musical world. She also wins over the audience with her early parting words: “One day, you’ll be cool. Look under your bed. It will set you free.”
A few years later, a funny thing happened … she started singing.
It started innocently enough in Elf. Will Ferrell’s Buddy eavesdrops on her rendition of “Baby it’s Cold Outside” in the shower and before the film is over Deschanel gets two more trips to the well, helping lead sing-alongs of both “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and “Auld Lang Syne”. Amazingly, on the first two songs, her Jovie is able to convince audiences that she actually does not want to sing.
History shattered this illusion in coming years.
Deschanel would add old-timey covers to her repertoire, performing the turn-of-the-20th-century ballad “A Bird in a Gilded Cage” in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and the jazz standard “On the Sunny Side of the Street” to the 2007 film The Good Life.
The very next year, She & Him’s debut album dropped and Deschanel officially became a “singer/actress”. The group (a duo with indie songwriter M. Ward) enjoyed near-immediate success and helped turn Deschanel into a viable star.
The whole thing came together one year after She & Him’s Volume One. The text-book crush role came Deschanel’s way and she helped anchor one of the best rom-coms of the last 10 years: (500) Days of Summer.
Cast alongside fellow emerging Hollywood-crush (and next year’s Soundtracking Valentine?) Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Deschanel married her musical cred with her Hollywood charms and created a character everyone could fall for.
The result: A totally believable musical enigma of a future ex-girlfriend.
Summer builds her hometown lore with a Belle & Sebastian reference in her high school yearbook, wins over her co-workers with Nancy Sinatra karaoke and hooks JGL’s Tom in with her love of The Smiths, sending him reeling into a Hall and Oates-fuelled fantasy land.
Hey, anyone that’s good enough for JGL has earned uber-crush status.
Happy Valentine’s Day, from Zooey.