(500) Days of Summer
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel
Costarring: Geoffrey Arend, Chloe Moretz, Matthew Gray Gubler
Director: Marc Webb
Times Watched: 3
Genre: Romantic Comedy
RT / Metacritic: 87% / 76
Road to Ownership: I had a precognisant notion I would love this movie, and I did when I saw it in theatres. I convinced my dad to go hunting for it at the video store one night just so I would hang out with my parents a bit longer when I was over for dinner. And finally I scored it on eBay for about 30% less than I would have paid otherwise, and it arrived in my mailbox this week. Seeing as how I just finished the #'s section of my DVD collection I thought it only appropriate to watch it ASAP.
The Plot: To quote the narrator, the movie is a tale of ‘Boy Meets Girl’, but it is not a love story. Indeed, within minutes of the opening scene, you are transported to the day the love story is over. Tom is a hopeless romantic working as a greeting card writer when he meets the enigmatic and aloof Summer, a perpetually independent type of gal. The movie takes you through the 500 days Tom is preoccupied with Summer on one level or another through a ‘flipbook’ style that jumps back and forth at different points in their relationship to point out the bitter, the sweet, and everything in between.
The Good & The Bad: I have so few bad things to say about this movie. It’s original, so original in fact, it almost feels mean to give it the nasty Romantic Comedy label. The flipbook format allows you to see the writing parallels in the rise and fall of a relationship. In fact, the brilliance of the flipbook lies in the fact it's very representative of how our memories DO work when remembering the pitfalls and peaks of our relationships. The leads easily carry the film on their shoulders: regardless of how you feel about Zooey Deschanel as one of Hollywood’s most polarizing actress, she fits the role of Summer so well it’s hard to tell if she’s really even acting. The film isn’t afraid to go off on silly tangents like the intro to Summer and what makes her spectacular, Joseph Gordon Levitt’s showstopping musical number, or the little documentary-style interview session towards the end, or the random film noir in the middle.
What else? The writing was wicked, the wardrobes were spot on, the setting and locations used inspired (I saw a new, real side of LA), and the cinematography was beautiful. I commented last night that watching it this time reminded me of the way wedding photographers shoot things. They find beauty in the ordinary things in life, but also know what shots to include for capturing that magic moment perfectly. The use of blue throughout to remind you of Zooey's distinctive eyes was also magical. Although there were certainly some fantastical moments in the film, overall it felt very genuine, especially compared to the more-real-than-most premise of the last flick we watched, ‘All About Love’.
I’m racking my brain for things to dislike about the movie. Some people might not appreciate the complicated flipbook format and having to keep track of what happened when. Others might not like the indie hipster vibe of the leads and the film as a whole. I guess my only issue with the film is the timeframe post-break-up for Summer’s life. It all feels a little fast for the girl she purports to be at the beginning of the story, although by the same thread, she does explain herself pretty well by the end.
Best Scene: I’m partial to Joseph Gordon Levitt’s musical extravaganza. It’s catchy and he totally pulls it off – unlike some of the other tangents, it doesn’t take away from the ‘reality’ of the story, it simply serves as an amazingly hilarious and entertaining metaphor for Tom’s feelings, in comparison to the glimpses of much more restrained feelings we get from Summer.
Worst Scene: Really none, although the film noir is a bit random and distracting. It plays for good laughs at least, but unlike the other sidebars, it makes you go “WTF was that?” versus “Brilliant!”
Best Character: Chloe Moretz is a bit of a scene stealer in this film with her tough little sis attitude. I love Tom & Summer but I can’t pick, so I’ll go with Chloe’s character.
Worst Character: Tom goes on a blind date in the film with Rachel Boston, who I liked on American Dreams. However her character in this movie is pretty implausible, as the way too tolerant but still straight talking chick of eternal patience, until it’s just too, too much in one of the other more awkward scenes of the film.
Soundtrack Of Our Lives: I’ve been thinking of doing a post on my fave movie soundtracks, and last night solidified this one as definitely being in contention. Predictably for a movie with two characters that are quite hipster, the soundtrack follows suit with a bunch of great tunes. However part of what I appreciate most in a good soundtrack is the actual use of music in a film. (500) Days expertly uses all of the music to allow you to have recall of each song’s place in the movie when you listen to it. Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘Bookends’ and the dual-use of Temper Trap’s ‘Sweet Disposition’ come to mind in particular. One knock though – where the hell is Jack Penate’s brilliant ‘Have I Been A Fool’ which is used throughout one entire scene? Hmph.
If You Like This You’ll Like: Other movies that subvert the rom com label…About A Boy and Juno spring to mind.
Final Grade: 4.5/5