500 Days of Summer does something that more Hollywood romantic comedies should do: It starts at the end. It tells us up front that “this is not a love story”. Before the opening credits roll, we already feel something for these characters because we know this isn’t going to be your conventional rom-com that ends with a wedding and flowers.

The romance centers on Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel). Tom bores himself to death writing greeting cards when his true passion lies in architecture, and Summer is the boss’ new assistant. Tom falls for her the minute he sees her, and our 500 days have begun.

The irony of this relationship is that Tom and Summer are truly opposites. Tom believes in love and fate. He hasn’t been very successful in relationships, but he is not discouraged because he is waiting for “the one”. On the other hand, Summer believes that true love is a myth. In fact, she doesn’t even know what love means.

At the outset, Summer is clear with Tom that she just wants to be good friends. Reluctantly, Tom goes along with this, not because he agrees with her, but because he thinks he will be able to change her over time. This blossoming romance is presented in non-chronological order, jumping to and from all points in their relationship.

The non-chronological presentation is not the only thing that sets this film apart from your average romantic comedy. The script, written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, successful combines both the comedic and dramatic moments. It achieves one of the hardest things for a script to do: to be funny and heartbreaking at the same time. In addition, director Marc Webb, in his feature film debut, shows that he can do more than tell a good story. He uses a variety of creativity to tell the tale, including split-screens, but it is all controlled. He doesn’t go over the top and the movie benefits from its 95 minute running time. It is the perfect length to tell a story that bounces around a lot.

And then there is the acting. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel are perfectly cast in this movie and their chemistry is truly genuine. Deschanel has already established herself as a solid actress, and she takes another step forward here. She plays Summer perfectly as a woman who doesn’t really want anything more than to just go with the flow. We sense in some scenes with Tom that she is capable of being vulnerable and committed to the relationship, but that side of her is never brought out. On the other side, Gordon-Levitt is not yet a household name, although he is sure to be there soon. He gives another solid performance in this movie, in a role that requires a variety of emotions, from dancing with a cartoon bird, to smashing plates on his kitchen counter. He has an incredibly bright future ahead of him, and he is probably licking his chops after landing a role in the upcoming Christopher Nolan movie, Inception.

To find any criticism in the movie, I would say that the narration and the opening credits sequence are a bit quirky and unnecessary. The narration is fine for the opening scene, but as it continues throughout the movie, I didn’t really see its purpose. As for the credits sequence, which features childhood photos of Tom and Summer, I just found it completely weird. It’s not as if they knew each other when they were children, and this movie isn’t supposed to be a true love story, so seeing their childhood photographs just didn’t do anything for me.
However, these are minor faults, and the film is still completely worth seeing. From top to bottom, from the acting to the script, it’s one of the most charming films of the summer. For anyone who appreciates originality, 500 Days of Summer is definitely a must-see.


Anonymous said...

I agree with many of your points, and it is definitely a must see. Your review was short and simple, which is perfect for this kind of movie.

Darcy said...

very nice review.
I aggree with most of your points.
The only part that I slightly disagree with is the part about the naration. This movie's artistic flair plays a major role in the overal theme of the film. From dancing with a cartoon bird to the main character seeing himself in an old french movie, the film picks up a sense of....out of lack of a better word...magic. This movie blends the fairy tale aspects of love and fate with the hard realities of life and I think the narration just adds to that overall magic.

Anyway, thats my opinion.
Otherwise, fantastic review.

Danny King said...

I would agree with you that the film is definitely built on an artistic flair, and it does add to the overall magic of the film. With the narration comment, I was mostly nit-picking, but I did feel that even though it was effective in the opening scene, it got less effective as it was used more. But I do see how someone could think it would add to the film's "magic".

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