UNpopular Opinion: 500 Days of Summer
Written by:Alex Keen
THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!
As you may have seen in my previous three unpopular opinions, I like some bad movies and loathe some ďgoodĒ movies. I think this tendency is within us all; but, for some reason, I am more susceptible than the rest of the world. Thatís what leads me to yet another of these columns. This time around, Iím a hater of (500) DAYS OF SUMMER.
Letís get this out of the way, I do enjoy romantic comedies. Before I start tearing (500) DAYS OF SUMMER down I want to specify that I am a fan of romantic comedies. I enjoy indie romantic comedies like BEFORE SUNSET and mainstream ones like 27 DRESSES (even despite my outright hatred of Katherine Heigl). Iím secure enough in my masculinity to watch movies with romance at itís core. With that said, I have some serious complaints to share.
My first big complaint about (500) DAYS OF SUMMER is that Joseph Gordon Levitt plays a mope. Using a mopey protagonist with no backbone is one of my least favorite movie cliches. Then, placing him in the center of romantic comedy is just a never-ending journey into discomfort. Iíd much rather have the stereotypical smarmy douche-bag character type usually played by George Clooney (ONE FINE DAY) or Gerard Butler (THE UGLY TRUTH) than the mopey, frumpy, sad, and pathetic slacker that was Joseph Gordon Levitt in this movie. It feels forced and unfulfilling to have a guy literally and figuratively moping around.
My second complaint is all about Zooey. While I agree that Zooey Deschanel is hot, it does not make up for her performance. The forced indie-ness of this movie appears to have required Ms. Zooey to try too hard to be quirky. I was more annoyed by her and her character than I was attracted to her. For me, a romantic comedy should seduce me to like both of the characters. I want to fall in love with them (get it?). Instead, I was stuck with a backbone-less guy and a girl trying to hard to be a hipster.
Beyond the performances, I have some major gripes about the actual construct of the film. Everything about this movie feels far too artificial. Straightforward minimalism would have worked just fine. Instead, (500) DAYS OF SUMMER spends too much time on over stimulation. Sure, a bit of spontaneity is fun. However, in a movie so heavily focused on character, like this one, leave the spontaneity to the performances. An explosive dramatic conversation means so much more than a goofy song and dance routine with Hall & Oates. Explosive characters develop depth and cause friction that a mini-music video can only dream of.
Another major distraction is the the old school palette used in the cinematography. Its just plain obnoxious. It was like watching the movie through translucent wood-panelled glasses.
Finally, the stoooopid narration tries too hard to make this movie out to be some kind of fairytale. Better romantic comedies (indie and otherwise) have shown that typically less is more in stories that have intense dramatic situations. While the narration is playful it is ineffective and eventually forgettable.
This gets me to the end. While I feel okay about the ultimate thematic conclusion of this movie (boy learns big lesson from the girl that destroyed his heart - fate and true love have been restored), it is the corny game of name association that left me with the biggest eye-roll of all time. Jesus, did she really need to be named Autumn? This kind of play on words just seems so easy; so corny; so Twin Valley High.
Furthermore, I apologize in advance for my jadedness, but the whole final scene is just bullshit. Autumn just happened to hang out at Tomís favorite and he never saw her there? This was practically a deserted park. Trust me, if Minka Kelly just happened to show up at the same spot that you adored youíd definitely notice. Hell youíd notice of Clint Howard hung out in the same spot twice in a row. The fact that Tom didnít see her is just crazy talk.
(500) DAYS OF SUMMER tried really hard to be unique and to say something profound about relationships. For me it just wound up trying to hard by focusing on Gordon Levittís mopishness, Deschanelís forced quirkiness, and the corniest of all possible endings. It is okay if you disagree with me as long as you realize that this movie is not as clever as you think it is