(500) Days of Summer
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zoeey Deschanel
Directed by: Marc Webb
Rarely do you come across a film where you can easily praise it for hours on end and still not say enough good things about. (500) Days of Summer directed by Marc Webb is one of those films. It would be better if you stopped reading this review right now and started watching the film. (500) Days of Summer is fantastic because every little part and detail is well done. The story is captivating and funny and the acting is excellent. The style how the film is presented is wonderfully done. The movie treats its audience well.
The movie starts off as a standard boy-meets-girl story but it quickly diverts from the usual fare you’d expect from that type of setup. Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) quickly develops a relationship with Summer (Zooey Deschanel). The major hitch is that Tom is a hopeless romantic while Summer maintains their relationship is on the level of “friends with benefits”. The story moves back and forth between various times during the relationship. The film lets on from the beginning that the relationship ultimately fails but the film uses this back-and-forth flow to develop the story of their love and the stunning trainwreck that derails it.
It is a smart movie; not because it is only clever for film connoisseurs but because it works on multiple levels to draw the audience in. You feel for the guy and you understand his love for the girl while you understand why this girl hates it how the guy doesn’t have a clue. It is not played out like most relationship movies. The movie leads the audience away from the idea that we need to see that the guy must always get the girl in the end. The feels naturally and organically developed so even those who can only handle movies that come from the same die cast mold can relate to the characters in the film. At the end of the movie, it doesn’t matter if they live happily ever after together; it only matters if they themselves are happy in the end.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel play their characters perfectly. Gordon-Levitt’s character is a likeable guy and you can understand why Deschanel’s character picks him over an office full of young eligible bachelors. You also feel his pain when the relationship goes sour. On the flip side, Deschanel is stunning as Summer. You can see her eyes sparkle as she looks at Tom. It doesn’t even feel like their acting or telling a story but it’s as we are being given a window into the lives of these two people. Both Gordon-Levitt and Deschanel give such fantastic performances even though it seems as if it was effortless.
The movie is not without its faults although they are far and few between. The idea of a tween girl being the voice of reason is not only a tired idea still used because writers still think they’re being clever and rocking previous misconceptions on who the “wise” character in a film can be. It might have been revolutionary the first dozen times we’ve seen this in film but now it has got to stop. The other secondary charcters are forgettable; which may have been intentional. The film plays to the idea that the two main characters are the only people who matter in the story. That’s not to say that the supporting characters obstruct the film. Actually, the interactions between the main characters with the supporting ones can be very entertaining; it’s just that those scenes are the most easily forgotten about after the credits roll. It’s like order the best steak from the best steakhouse in town and thinking fondly of the soup and then enjoying every last morsel of the steak; you’re going to only remember the main course no matter how good the entree is.
The time shifting style of the movie was an interesting and refreshing approach. Each day or string of days is noted as to where it was in the history of their relationship. They use this technique quite well. One example of which is where Tom makes a joke that he expects Summer to find amusing (she doesn’t). The film then flashbacks to a particular day in the relationship where he made the same joke and she thought it was hilarious. The film jumps back and forth throughout their relationship. It could have been a failure in where the audience might be confused by all the jumping around but the narrative is good at keeping everything to the point. It has shades of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, although it is far less bizarre. Any questions or confusion that the audience may have is intentionally created by the film to keep the audience speculative about holes in the story. The film reveals itself when it’s appropriate; it never pulls the trigger on revealing curiosities until the right moment. This makes the film very satisfying because it never panders to the audience; the film is written and presented by the filmmaker rather than written and presented to appeal for an audience. Sometimes that formula can fall apart when you’ve got a stubborn filmmaker but the film never felt preachy or egotistical; it was pure entertainment and enjoyment.
(500) Days of Summer is an incredible film. If you haven’t seen it already, go and see it. If you have seen it, go see it again. This film is this generation’s When Harry Met Sally. It’s a treasure to watch and worthy of the highest rating possible.