Google+ Cinema Viewfinder: Movie Review: (500) Days of Summer

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Movie Review: (500) Days of Summer

by Lissette Decos (500) Days of Summer is a rare cinematic experience. The kind where you watch someone suffer through something you have actually endured. But this time it’s funny. It’s about the sad and completely inconvenient truth that in a relationship someone inevitably falls harder. And sometimes, it’s only you. We’ve all been there... some more than others. But regardless of how many times you’ve had your heart stomped on, this time you are at a safe distance and you can laugh at the poor sap on the screen as he flutters about looking silly, misreading things and experiencing those extreme highs and lows that one-way love brings (and you know so well), all while the "one who has not fallen" sits calmly, and sips their tea, and does a crossword puzzle. Zooey Deschanel plays the quirky love interest, Summer (though it’s not a far stretch for Zooey who I believe is quirky without even trying. Probably quirky just sitting there. Taking the bus or blowing her nose. I love Zooey, and I hate that Katy Perry looks like her because Zooey is so unique and quirky). And Joseph Gordon-Levitt expertly plays Tom, who falls hard from the very first moment he sees her.

Ah, why was it so much fun to see this movie? Probably because it’s fun to see someone else get hurt. Someone else misread all the signs. Someone else get their heart crushed. And it was also fun to see it all happen to Tom. It’s always the girls who fall hard and who need to wake up from their unlived life, and falling in love with the "right" guy is what does the trick. She now has the courage to let her hair down and quit her thankless job. In this film all these rules are broken, and it’s the “wrong girl” who gets the guy to do all of these things... which is what makes this film funny, honest and refreshing. The structure of the film is also way cool as we shuffle through Tom’s 500 days of loving Summer in random order. Just like we often remember our own broken love stories. Oftentimes remembering the good days more than the bad. What bad? There were bad? No of course not. And just like the aforementioned poor sap on the screen, you don’t remember the bad ones and hence make it harder for yourself to get over the person.* *Are we all pre-wired for self-destruction? I say, definitely. Otherwise, why would eating healthy salads be so difficult (this would also explain my hourly craving for pain au chocolat)? Finally, we see the signs Tom missed, the ones we missed, nay, ignored. So we’d fall head over heels anyway regardless of the hints and subtle cues we get so early on. Like when a guy avoids your hand when you reach for it, or says things like “I don’t want a serious relationship;” “I’m still in love with my ex;” or “You remind me of my Aunt Edna.” Okay, they’re not so subtle. Right up front we are clearly and painfully aware where a relationship is headed but take the leap anyway. Regardless, I was in a much better mood when I left (500) Days of Summer, this film about a boy with a broken heart, than the last couple of romantic comedies I saw where everything works out in the end.


Joel Bocko said...

Interesting, I saw this and it didn't really work for me. A bit too many cliches sink its potential subversion.

But, the potential subversion's still there and I found it intriguing...I reviewed this film on my Examiner page (linked up on the top of my blog) and parsed these aspects. My initial reaction to the film was mostly negative but the ways in which this film rejects quirky culture and especially the quirky romantic guy at the heart of such intrigued me...even if I don't think it ultimately achieved what it was going for.

As far as bittersweet end-of-romance films, I prefer Annie Hall and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind but perhaps that's setting the bar too high...

Tony Dayoub said...

Can't comment, as I haven't seen this one myself. But let me see if I can get Lissette to respond.

And thanks for chiming in.

Lissette Decos said...

Hey! Sorry I haven't had a chance to respond. But I wanted to wait til I had time to read your review!
I completely agree with your observation that this film heralds the "death of the very hip/quirky/indie aesthetic" - I hadn't realized it, but I also have a belly ache from too much of the stuff.

I definitely agree your bar is high! Or maybe mine is too low!
But I think what 500 Days does do well is tell the story where the kind of love that hurts is still worth having. Even if it's one-sided or in your mind.
In Annie Hall the guy could never have as much fun trying to cook up live lobsters with anyone else.
So Tom, will never have as much fun in Ikea or any store, with anyone else.
And you're right both characters do have to grow up in the end.. but it's sad. Tom learns that love, like childhood, doesn't last forever.