Movie Review: 500 Days of Summer

“Roses are Red,

Violets are Blue…

Fuck you, Whore.”

Romance—we know what it entails in Hollywood, it and all its standard list of clichés. The concept of the romantic comedy is no better, and I dare say many have reached the point where it all just seems to blend together. Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. Wackiness ensues, we all get our giggles, everybody kisses and makes up in the end for a sweet, puppy-dog ending. Thank you, but no.

500 Days of Summers twists many of these clichés into a delightfully appealing mix for people at either side of the fence. Despite the narrator’s opening commentary, this movie is a love story, but it does not pursue the image through the usual manner.

Yes, there is still the dreamy-eyed romantic and their ever faithful foil—the detached and sexy fling (see: Nympho Love Hater). Therein lies one of many twists, though—these roles, so often shuffled out by gender, have been deliciously twisted. Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as Tom, the boy, but one that embodies what we have come to exceedingly think of as the “feminine” characteristics of relationships. He is our emotional, relationship-craving romantic, who still believes in love at first sight, and also can’t seem to let go when it slips between his fingers.  Zooey Deschanel is his opposite, Summer, a flighty, unemotional and detached girl who makes no qualms about the fact that she’s just looking for a friend—albeit one with some wonderful perks. Such reversal of roles can also be seen in the form of —‘s young sister, who acts as a sort of older sister and mentor to him—a psychiatrist that he relies on for advice.

The characters are what really make this movie interesting, and they are supported with well-written dialogue that is, when it tries to be, genuinely funny. Levitt and Deschanel click, and their performance reflects it, but Deschanel absolutely shines. They are believable, they are human, and they do not conform to the Hollywood dream, and this down-to-earth quality makes the results all the more entertaining. Some cliché’s still shoulder their way into the mix, but you can hardly begrudge the movie that, as it spends most of the time taking those clichés and teasing them relentlessly—so you can generally forgive it a few.

The film itself is also interesting for how it pursues production. Rearing its independent roots, Director Marc Webb plays with a number of techniques throughout the movie, offering us not only a view of the relationship in the traditional linear form, but also through random interjections of double-screen visions of Expectation vs. Reality, character documentary-style interviews, and even one musical outburst (after Tom has a very, very good night). Imagery and color play a very vivid role throughout the film as well, an artsy underlay to the comical exterior that accentuates the fact that this movie is not merely offering us another slap-stick, but also a critique of modern love. There is color. There is life. The picture breathes, and you do not need to look far to find the messages lingering beneath the surface.

Even so, there are flaws as well. The rapid back-and-forth hops that comprise the movie’s nonlinear timeline can get a bit disorienting at certain points, the changes abrupt, the scenes sometimes seemingly unnecessary. Plus, Tom can get on your nerves at times for just how utterly hopeless he seems. When things don’t go his way, his emotional nature truly rears itself and he becomes a very whiny bitch. It gets grating. After a while, you just want to reach out and slap him, shouting, “Get. Over. It.” His depression had its entertaining moments of course, but it just felt like it dragged on and tried a little too hard at points. The movie made fun of this as well, of course, even having a blind date explain to him exactly what we’re all thinking, but the depression stretches on. As I said, there are still some clichés that will have most people rolling their eyes (chiefly the ending—“Autumn.” Cute, but don’t push your luck.), and the overarching narrative voice seems unnecessary at points.

This movie has a unique style, and it gets points for bringing some flare to an oft-overdone genre. It definitely does the work of entertaining, in its odd, hipster-esque manner, and while you won’t be losing yourself in the story, the characters will keep you genuinely invested. It gets the job done—and peppers us with a great selection of tunes while it does.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

~ by Chris G. on January 19, 2010.

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