(500) Days of Summer
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In this quirky romantic comedy about love and fate, a young greeting card writer (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is hopelessly, helplessly searching for the girl of his dreams...and his new co-worker, Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel), may just be "the one." But the 500 days of their offbeat relationship reveal (in no particular order) that the road to happiness can be unpredictable, uncontrollable--and unbelievably funny!
Stills from (500) Days of Summer (Click for larger image)
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The movie is, I guess, technically a romantic comedy, but it is not your standard romantic comedy. Not that there is necessarily anything wrong with romantic comedies. I admit there are times when I have a fever that only a romantic comedy can cure, but before you judge me too harshly, you should know I can also bench press like 70 pounds...so...you know, there's that. I guess the point I am trying to make is that this movie will, I think, appeal even to those who do not ordinarily enjoy romantic comedies. It was quite funny in places, and the "love story" (I know it was not supposed to be a "love story") avoids most of the sentimentality that can be slightly nauseating in standard romantic comedies.
I enjoyed that the story was told in a non-linear way. I am not sure why exactly, but I think it made the movie much more interesting. I think one reason might be because we are all so trained by now in what to expect from a movie like this that we can see what is coming a mile away. If this movie were told in a linear way there are really only two ways it could end. SPOILER ALERT: I give away the ending here. Either the guy winds up getting the girl in the end, or, she leaves him, and he is depressed for awhile, and then decides to finally follow through with that plan he has been holding off on for so long (in this case, to become an architect), and then, after he has got his life together, he meets someone else. This movie chose the latter option obviously, but the point is, if you start this story at the beginning there are really no surprises for the viewer since they already know it can only end one of two ways. By telling the story in a non-linear way you can have lots of surprises: How did they meet? What went wrong?, etc.. I know, reading my description, you are probably thinking: "Wow! Two whole surprises!" The fact is, there were more than two surprises, but I am suffering from a failure of imagination at the moment. Normally my brain is an endless stream of brilliant insights, but it seems to have momentarily dried up. I apologize.
This review is going off the rails fast. Time to be serious. The acting in the movie was excellent. I really like Zooey Deschanel and she was perfect for this role. I also like Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and I cannot resist putting in a plug here for one of his movies that I think is one of the best movies ever made. If you have not seen Brick do yourself a favor and watch it. It is brilliant. Back to (500) Days of Summer. The movie is quite funny. I found myself laughing throughout.
The movie also raises some interesting questions. For example, how, in the age of greeting cards, pop psychology, and romantic comedies, do we distinguish between our "real" feelings, and the way we think we are supposed to feel? How do we know that our feelings are genuine? I actually think this is a real problem in our culture. It was a good stroke having the main character work for a greeting card company since greeting cards tend to be associated with sentimentality and false emotion. Another interesting question raised by the movie, What is love? That might seem like too big of a question for a movie to deal with, and it is. One should not expect deep answers to the question from this movie. I also think that to really explore that question honestly the movie would have had to go much darker than I think it wanted to. I think that what most people call love is probably a mix of many things, and some of them are not necessarily positive (obsession, jealousy, possessiveness, etc.). Nevertheless, the movie raises the question in a way that I think most romantic comedies do not, even if it winds up giving a somewhat stock answer ("you know it when you feel it").
The one complaint I had with the movie is with the ending. SPOILER ALERT AGAIN (that's two spoiler alerts for those keeping count). The movie was so original in some ways, I was a little disappointed that the ending seemed fairly pedestrian. The main character has his heart broken, we see him in his depression, going to the store in his bathrobe, then we see the standard montage where he starts working on his architecture again, applying for jobs, and getting his life back on track. This is the standard formula. Heart break is the catalyst that finally forces people to pursue their dreams. We have all seen that story a million times. I realize that this is often what really happens in real life. It has happened to me twice. I had my heart broken and then finally decided to do something I had been wanting to do for years but was too lazy, too caught up in my own inertia, or whatever, and it eventually turned out that those heart breaks were really positive events in my life. So I understand why movies follow this script, but I was a little disappointed anyways and I will tell you why.
There is a scene in the movie where Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character is sketching while watching his little sister play soccer. He has just had his heart broken and as soon as that scene came up I thought "Here we go! He is going to get back into architecture and get his life back on track! I know exactly how this story is going to end, there are no more surprises." Then it cut to what he was actually sketching and, to my surprise, it was a picture of Summer (Zooey Deschanel) holding a bloody knife, and a dead, bloody body in the background, and I thought, "Yes! This movie forced me to jump to a hasty conclusion, and then stomped on it". I really love it when movies do that, when they play with the expectations of the audience, and with the familiar tropes, in order to surprise. I was so happy to see that bloody knife (never thought I would say that again).
But it was only temporary. The movie wound up going the traditional route in the end. It was not a huge problem for me. It certainly did not ruin the movie for me, and I cannot really imagine any other ending that would have been any more satisfying. I just got so excited when I thought they were going to dash my expectations that I was disappointed when they did not. All in all, I think this movie is definitely worth watching. Especially if you happen to have a fever that only a romantic comedy can cure.
I'd like to see a sequel... "Lifetime of Autumn".
This movie is told in a series of flashbacks that occur before, during, and after the relationship. It's a very creative film that handles a sensitive topic very well, and I'm sure it's a movie that anyone who has ever had their heart broken can relate to. The narrator of the film warns us at the start of the movie that this is not a love story, but viewers may fail to listen to him just as poor Tom doesn't listen to Summer, and therefore not everyone will like the way the movie ends. However, I think this is a brilliant little film, and I really enjoyed it.