1/22/10

(500) Days of Summer (Review)

Right from the get-go, the somewhat annoying narrator of (500) Days of Summer warns us not to expect a love story. Someone should have told Tom Hansen. Oh wait, someone did. The girl of his dreams, Summer Finn, makes it clear up front that she isn't looking for a boyfriend, that she doesn't even believe in love. (Her following actions could be said to send a bit of a mixed message, though.)

The movie takes a unique, non-linear look at the relationship between these two, showing the ups and downs of their time together as Tom tries to make sense of their break-up. Most of his memories of the past idealize Summer, but a shift in perspective later makes us question all we've seen through his eyes. (We should have known better than to trust someone who misinterpreted the ending of The Graduate.)

Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is slightly emo but earnest, sweet and so clueless that he relies on his little sister for relationship advice. Summer (Zooey Deschanel) is quirky and cute, sometimes maddeningly contradictory, but with an aura about her that (almost) justifies Tom's obsession. (Maybe it's her amazing eyes, highlighted by the signature shades of blue she surrounds herself with even in her apartment.)

The movie utilizes nontraditional ways of telling the story, including animation, putting a grieving Tom into foreign films, and, perhaps most effectively, a split screen segment emphasizing the vast gulf between Tom's expectations and reality. The music, good throughout the film, is especially excellent at this moment. ("Never ever saw it coming at all...")

For all its protestations about not being a love story, (500) Days of Summer is still a story about love. And, through its characters, it has some interesting things to say about it. Summer questions the meaning and reality of love, pointing out how most marriages end in divorce. Tom, on the other hand, asserts that you know love when you feel it. (While Tom and Summer seem to exchange viewpoints for a time, in the end they are still who they always were: an idealistic guy and a girl that does whatever she wants.)

If we can't quite see ourselves on one side or the other of this story, as either the hopeless romantic or the fiercely independent personality, we can probably recognize the types and why they make an uneasy match. Tom tries so hard to put Summer into a box as "the one" that he can't see she doesn't really fit. His wise-beyond-her-years-sister sees it: "Just 'cause some cute girl likes the same bizarro crap you do? That doesn't make her your soulmate." (Fair enough. But what does?)

At one point Tom goes on a tirade against greeting cards, movies and pop songs and the way they keep people from saying what they really feel while creating unrealistic expectations. But ultimately (500) Days turns into one of these movies, with an ending that promotes the ideas of fate and soulmates. (While it's not the happily-ever-after of your typical love story, the ending's still blindly optimistic, and maybe a little too cute.)

(500) Days of Summer is unique and fresh, an intelligent and unusual romantic comedy. (It's just not as brave as it pretends to be.)

Movie:
Rating:


(Although I could do without a couple of scenes and would probably like the TV edit.)


Soundtrack:
Rating:


("Bad Kids" is the only real clunker.)


I leave you with a music video, not from the movie, but with its two stars dancing to Zooey's song "Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?" from her band She & Him. (I can't watch this without smiling.)


14 comments:

Raquelle said...

Great review! I think the fact that I knew that they based the whole blue theme in the movie around Zooey Deschanel's eyes, hurt me when I watched this movie. It made me hate Zooey and Summer. Why the heck does she deserve all this adoration?! But I guess that's a good thing too because I could empathize with Tom's character because she makes him suffer so.

Thanks for reviewing this!

Clarabela said...

I enjoyed your review. I thought the movie was fresh in it approach to romantic comedies, by telling it from the guy's point of view.

Wendymoon said...

Raquelle - The blue thing is a bit of a gimmick. But it does make Summer stand out. (And Zooey does have really pretty eyes.)

Clarabela - I too liked seeing the guy be the one hopelessly in love in this romantic comedy. Very nice for a change.

Sally said...

I'm very glad you reviewed this film. It's been precariously on my to-watch list for a couple of months. Every time I'd ask people about it, they'd say, "Well, you just have to watch it." Which is hardly helpful. Your review was great! I now know what to expect! Thank you for reviewing this!

P.S. I love that YouTube clip. It's what put the movie on my to-watch list in the first place. So cute!

Vanessa said...

I have been thinking about this film a lot lately because the second time I saw it (when it came out on DVD) I liked it a lot less. I think it has a lot of great ideas (I also especially liked the split screen sequence) but for some reason I personally didn't fall in love with Zooeys character. And I normally love her! But I just felt that she was a bit too bitchy from the start and I never quite got the attraction.

I think I liked the idea of the film a lot more then the actual finished piece..although the soundtrack is fabulous! As is Zooey's own CD. Love them both!

Also the costume and set design were amazing! I really want to have the chalk board wall!

Wendymoon said...

Sally - I had wanted to see the film for a while too, and am glad I finally did. Would love to hear your thoughts after you see it! (And I agree, that clip is just so cute.)

Vanessa - That chalk board wall is pretty fabulous! It's funny, I liked Zooey in this movie more than when I've seen her before. And I think I actually liked the movie a bit more the second time. After I already knew what would happen, I was able to focus on more of the details, and I enjoyed that.

The Kid In The Front Row said...

Really nice review :) I haven't seen this yet but I did read the screenplay. Zoey's character really didn't seem that likeable, it'll be interesting to see her performance on the big screen.

Wendymoon said...

Thanks, Kid!

Summer is a bit hard to like. Unless you're Tom, that is. She treats him pretty badly. But I think the on-screen romance works for two reasons.

One is the way the character of Tom is written. He's a sad and soulful guy who gives his heart away blindly. So it doesn't matter if Summer's selfish and mean, she's cute and fun and that's all Tom needs to fall. Hard.

The second thing making this work is Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He sells his character's emotion for Summer so well. It doesn't matter if she's worthy, I believe there's something there because Tom's emotions seem so real.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

You are wonderfully accurate in that the film still ends up being way too positive. That was my only detractor. I would have preferred if Summer just remained as an agnostic and didn't miraculously fall in love. Still liked it though.

Sally said...

Hey! I wanted you to know that I nominated you for an award!

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hanum said...

I like this movie a lot, it reminds me of someone. Good.. Good..

Olive said...

Great review. I was kind of disappointed with this film, having heard so many great things about it.
I thought the characters were a bit annoying and you're right, it wasn't as brave as it it thinks it is.
Only okay...

Cesia said...

I loved this movie! I like how it was not the usual cookie cutter plot and ending. I also loved (and have) the soundtrack. :)

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