Review: 500 Days of Summer
PLOT: Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon Leavitt) is your average twenty-something white dude with a good 9-5 job. Everything about his life is perfectly adequate, except for one thing: he has not yet met ďThe OneĒ. So when a beautiful new co-worker named Summer (Zooey Deschanel) enters his life, Tom thinks heís met his soul mate. But while Summer is definitely into Tom, sheís not so much into relationshipsÖand she doesnít believe in love.
This film was reviewed as part of the Los Angeles Film Festival
REVIEW: God bless this film for showing the other side of love. The not-so-rosy side of relationships. For showing that men donít always dictate the pace. Men donít always screw over women, men arenít simply clamoring to get laid. Thatís right, despite what Hollywood seems to think, some of us men suffer too damnit, we got feelings too. Thatís not to say that 500 Days of Summer is some whiny, emo, girl-power marathon- itís not, at all. Itís just a realistic, witty, and most importantly extremely entertaining piece of filmmaking. Itís the ďRom-com rebuttalĒ. Sure, itís still a comedy, and yes, at times it can be very romantic, but it sure ainít sweet, and this baby ainít even remotely formulaic.
As the title suggests, we follow the 500 days that Tom Hansen has Summer in his life. We donít however follow this story in order. We jump from day 249 to day 1, to day 488, to day 44, etc. It can get a bit disorienting and tiresome at times, but it works better than your typical point A to point B narrative. This and several other elements of the film are very evocative of another of my favorites that rebel against the genre, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. In both films we get a sensitive male lead and an elusive, cold female who serves as the object of the maleís every desire and the subject of their greatest fears. Itís a bold tactic in that romantic comedies are typically for the female audience, with characters they can sympathize with. 500 Days of Summer is decidedly told from the maleís perspective (though it appeals to both sexes), so hereís hoping a male audience can get over their preconceptions and give this film a go.
Gordon-Leavitt is great as always, playing an everyman who, God bless him, just wants to meet the right girl and settle down. While heís sure Summer is that girl, sheís not so sure heís the right guy, or that thereís even such thing. Throughout their tumultuous relationship, the screenwriters built in some moments of rare realism, like that short, cryptic email us guys dread, the inevitable ďfriendsĒ talk, the possible rekindling of romance, etc. Itís hard to describe without giving too much away, but Iíd bet good money that anyone who sees this film will find at least one or two instances where they say ďWow, yeah, I can relate to that.Ē
That isnít to say this film is one long break-up or downer. Not even close! Itís a comedy after all, and there are many happy times to be had by the couple. Music video helmer Marc Webb directed this thing with great visual flair, providing everything from animation to a fantastic dance number that is easily one of the filmís great moments. Drawing on both classic 80ís hits and current hipster tunes, this filmís soundtrack is one thatíll probably be a big seller as well, and keeps the film upbeat.
Other than the somewhat disorienting narrative, there are a few other small hang-ups I had with this film. Despite smashing dozens of stereotypes, the pic does unfortunately succumb to several which standout all the more. These include the horny, crude, never-gets-laid best friend, and the for-some-reason-20-years-more-mature-than-she-should be younger sister. Also, since the film wants to appeal to mass audiences as much as possible, it shies away from too many truly emotional moments, and I wish there were a few more of those, but on the whole, this thing still packs way more emotional punch than 99% of the rom-coms out there today.
In fact, I donít want to classify 500 Days as a rom-com at all. I canít call it a tragicomedy either though, or a drama. The film really is unclassifiable, and that in my mind is the mark of something truly original.