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Movie Review: 500 Days of Summer

July 31, 2009
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Smart and quirky, 500 Days of Summer Delights

Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love. Girl doesn’t.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zoey Deschanel

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zoey Deschanel

The tagline certainly doesn’t allude to  it, but  500 Days of Summer is absolutely adorable.  Compulsively watchable, it throws a few curve balls into the traditional romantic comedy genre, and is a delight from beginning to end.  The mere existence of this film (along with the recent Adventureland) has reaffirmed my faith in romantic comedies, which I pretty much gave up on a long time ago.

The film begins with a note that the story  is not based on any actual person, then says, “except you”, and names a person.  Then calls said person “bitch”. In that first 30 seconds I could tell this would not be your typical rom-com.  The film is narrated as though it is a nature documentary by a monotone voice who ominously warns us that “this is no love story” in his first introduction.

Random days from the relationship of Summer (played by Zoe Deschanel) and Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) are shown out of chronological order.  By watching these small snippets the bigger picture slowly unfolds for the audience.  Day 3 might be followed by day 480, which is a nifty way to tell a non-linear story, and it works quite well.  It’s also a great way to show the good, bad and ugly times any relationship goes through, and keeps the film fresh and unpredictable.

Tom writes greeting cards for a living.  One day Summer is introduced as his boss’s new assistant,  and his life is forever changed.  Their first encounter takes place on an elevator.  Tom is listening to The Smiths (which caused internal swooning on my part) and is shellshocked when Summer not only says she loves them, but proceeds to sing the lyrics to one of the band’s songs.  She sashays out of  the elevator, leaving him slack-jawed and hopelessly smitten.

Director Marc Webb chose to make  Summer the “guy” of the relationship. She doesn’t want to get serious, doesn’t believe in love or marriage, and doesn’t want to put “labels” on their relationship.  She’s wishy-washy and frustrating for Tom to deal with because after months of hanging out and sleeping together she won’t call him her boyfriend.  She always appears to have some secret she is withholding.  Every time they are drawn closer she pulls away.  By the end of the movie you’ll know why.

Zooey Deschanel is perfectly cast  as the slightly offbeat Summer, who is unconventionally pretty and quirky. She simultaneously  charms your pants off and earns your disdain for  breaking Tom’s heart.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who was great in Brick, shows that he is a solid indie go-to-guy.  He consistently chooses edgy films (Mysterious Skin, Brick, The Lookout) and it has been fun to see him evolve from a child actor to full fledged leading man.  In a musical number, he displays the same goofy charm that has made Paul Rudd so likable.  Both Deschanel and Gordon-Levitt showcase some serious pipes in Karaoke bar scenes.  Seeing Tom tear through The Pixies “Here comes your man” and later The Clash’s “Train of Vain” was fantastically fun.

Geoffrey Arend and Mathew Gray Gubler play the nerdy sidekicks that commiserate with Tom on a frequent basis, and are welcome additions.  On the other hand, the movie falls prey to   “precocious younger sibling”  syndrome and adds an unnecessary wise-beyond-her-years sister who doles out unwanted advice to her heartbroken brother.

Marc Webb previously directed music videos, and he employs lots of cool visuals in the film.  The best of these is a split screen scene which shows the reality vs. expectations of what happens when Tom goes to a party.

The soundtrack is an eclectic collection of  artists including  The Smiths, Simon and Garfunkel, Regina Spektor, Hall and Oates, Wolfmother, and the first lady of France, Carla Bruni, to mention a few.

This movie is told through the male perspective, much like High Fidelity and Garden State, but it is really for anyone who has ever been in or out of love.  The male peers I saw the movie with said it had melted their cold hearts, surely it can do the same for you.

Frothygirlz rating 9/10

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