REVIEW: ‘(500) Days of Summer’

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Grade: A-

About once every summer an Indie film comes along that captures an audiences attention and gets out of its inner city art houses and expands with critical and commercial success. Past examples of this include movies like Once, Little Miss Sunshine, and Napoleon Dynamite. This summer, that movie will be Sundance sensation (500) Days of Summer.

(500) Days of Summer is a movie that everyone can get behind. It’s a light piece of summer entertainment, but free of fluff. The movie is creative, but it doesn’t feel completely original. Instead it feels like those romantic comedies that we have seen over and over finally done right. It has a non-linear narrative, but it never loses focus. Most of all, it’s just plain fun.

From the get-go the narration tells us that the film is not a love story. In the traditional sense, the movie is not a love story; it’s a relationship story. It jumps around the 500 days of infatuation that Tom has with Summer from their initial meeting to the height of puppy love to their eventual break-up and beyond. Director Marc Webb uses tonal montage throughout the film, so we never know exactly where we are in their relationship until the title card with Day XX appears.

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Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel are perfectly cast and they carry this film with their fantastic performances. Deschanel plays Summer brilliantly with what seems like the conscious knowledge that she has a power over not only Tom, but over men in general. She represents the girl that men so easily fall head over heels for because she has no conceit. She’ll never give the sense that she is “too good” for anybody. Deschanel never misses a beat and Summer is easy to fall for. Plus, I’ve never seen an actress able blush so well.

Gordon-Levitt’s Tom character is that guy that everybody knows; that friend who treats break-ups like a loss of soul. The one whose existence is defined by his success or failure with women. Gordon-Levitt has one of those faces that can tell you everything he’s feeling with just a slight change of expression. When the title cards are not on screen giving us perspective of time, you can just look to Gordon-Levitt’s expression – the width of his smile determines his satisfaction with life.

Now, I believe that anyone can fall in love with (500) Days of Summer. However, I get the feeling that the film was made for one specific group of people – film buffs. It’s like watching elements from all of your favorite movies boiled into one. It’s put together in an episodic way so that in a sense it sometimes feels more like a sitcom than a feature film. But it’s smarter than your average sitcom. There are direct references to films as widely different as Enchanted, Star Wars, and The Seventh Seal. The movie also has the tone that occasionally resembles films like Annie Hall, Garden State, and even the intellectual montage of Sergei Eisenstein. Yep, all of that from one film.

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Underscoring the film is a wonderful soundtrack that is used to set the tone as much as the story itself. Music from “The Smiths,” “Black Lips,” and “Regina Spektor,” give the film its Indie feel and songs from Dirty Dancing and “Hall and Oates” even fit in to the soundtrack in their own hilarious way.

The film was not without a few flaws. The narration at times got a little tedious and as clever as the use of title cards was (and as much as I enjoyed seeing other members of the audience try to do the math in their heads) it did seem a bit excessive at times. It was another case of the filmmaker not trusting his audience enough to get what he’s trying to say. Another thing that was a bit distracting was the product placement. It wasn’t blatantly excessive, but in a film that otherwise feels so independent any time I saw a Pepsi or Wells Fargo logo I was taken out of the moment.

The film comes out in limited release at the end of July, but expected it to expand quickly and possibly make a dent in the box office charts by the end of the summer. The film is relatable to audiences young and old and I predict it will particularly take off with young adults and teenagers. Don’t expect it to be an end of the year awards contender, but if it gets a DVD release around Christmas, I bet it will be a top seller. At least, I know it will be on my list.

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  • G1000

    I can not wait for this!

  • DantheMan

    I beleive this film is good enough to be one of the 10 picked for Oscar’s Best Picture. At least it will be up for Indy awards.

  • http://www.filmmisery.com Alex Carlson

    I want to believe that it would be good enough, but the Academy is still averse to this kind of comedy.

    It will probably find its way into my top 10, though.

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