(500) Days of Summer
This Generation's Annie Hall
Since the dawn of the medium, movies have tried to define, not so much love, but the relationships between men and women. None have really succeeded, but a few have come very close. Well, I wasn’t born yet when Annie Hall was released in 1977, and I still believed that girls had cooties when When Harry Met Sally hit theaters about a decade later. Now, finally, in the middle of a summer blockbuster season of my early thirties comes (500) Days of Summer, the defining romantic comedy of its generation.
The movie’s narrator tells us right at the beginning that this is not a love story, but it is a story about love. Like Annie Hall, the film does not tell its story in chronological order. At the beginning, we are introduced to the two lovers as they are splitting up, then transported back to day 1, the day they met. The film continues to bounce back and forth throughout the relationship, between the magic and the distance, the awkwardness and the passion. The film even has a counter to indicate which day of the relationship we are currently viewing.
At its most basic level, it is a boy meets girl story. The boy is Tom, an aspiring architect who is currently stuck writing cheesy slogans for a greeting card company. The girl is Summer, his boss’ new assistant. Although they have a lot in common, they are complete opposites when it comes to their opinions about love. Tom has always believed strongly in love, whereas Summer believes there is no such thing. Despite her plea to keep things casual and just be friends, a definite relationship develops and things go great until their differing ideas on where it is heading begin to cause some friction.
The movie’s non-sequential storyline works for the film, because we are viewing Tom and Summer’s relationship as we might remember one of our own. We don’t remember things in order, but instead our memory jumps around between moments good and bad, high and low.
Whereas most modern romantic comedies seem to follow the same formula, (500) Days of Summer is endlessly creative. There are brilliant sequences in the film, such as the impromptu dance number that develops after one of the high points. Another has Tom as a character in gloomy foreign films following one of the low points. There is also a terrific split-screen sequence which explores Tom’s expectations of an event on one side and the reality on the other. This is an idea that was expanded from director Marc Webb’s music video for the Maroon 5 song “Goodnight Goodnight.” The first-time feature director uses often subtle differences to create a strong scene with which most romantics will surely identify.
Screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (the pair behind the disastrous Pink Panther 2 of all things) fully succeed in creating a true-to-life modern romance that feels completely fresh and hip. A lot of romantic comedies lately have explored a trend that a friend of mine describes as “guys are the new girls,” and this movie is no exception. Generally, this is considered a result of the modern independent woman, but maybe it’s just that Hollywood is finally waking up to the fact—or at least admitting—that guys can be romantics too.
The lead performances are top-notch, the type of performances that are likely to be considered as “snubs” when the Oscar nominations are announced. As Tom, burgeoning superstar Joseph Gordon-Levitt carries the movie by allowing the audience in and allowing them to feel like he represents the romantic in all of us. As Summer, the always delightful Zooey Deschanel pulls off the impossible of playing the “girl of our dreams” while still managing to make her feel authentic and attainable. Reportedly, the two stars got along fabulously on the set and that closeness certainly comes out in the performances. The word “chemistry” gets thrown around a lot in movie reviews and whatever it is, these two have it.
In addition to the script and performances, (500) Days of Summer is also brought to life by some terrific cinematography, something not usually attributed to romantic comedies. The colors of some shots truly jump out at you and as I understand it, the blue-centric color scheme was done to bring out Zooey Deschanel’s eyes. Well, it worked.
The crux of (500) Days of Summer is that the protagonist believes he has finally found the girl he has been looking for his entire life. Well, while watching the movie, I couldn’t fight the feeling that I had found a movie I had been searching for my entire life.
(500) Days of Summer is rated PG-13 for “sexual material and language.” There’s some definite sex talk and adult language/situations, but nothing more than you’d find in most romantic comedies. The rating is appropriate.Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attended a promotional screening of (500) Days of Summer.