(500) Days of Summer (2009)

14 Feb


Smith’s Verdict: ****

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

“(500) Days of Summer” is the best romantic comedy to come around in a long, long time. There were many terrible ones and a few mediocre ones, though there have been a few fair ones, but none as fantastic as this one. I’d even put this in a class with Woody Allen’s “Annie Hall” and that’s a pretty highly-regarded class indeed. It’s a romantic comedy for those who normally don’t go to romantic comedies because there were so many bad ones. You know it’s different from the hilarious disclaimer at the beginning, which states it isn’t based on anybody in particular. (“Especially you Jenny Beckman. Bitch.”)

But the situations that ensue in this story of boy-meets-girl feel like they’ve happened to you. Even if they haven’t, you still feel the reality of the situation. This is a romantic comedy that doesn’t result to cheap ploys such as sappy overhanded drama or ineffective, unfunny gross-out gags. The comedy comes from the realism, which is portrayed in a pleasant but unforced fashion.

The film chronicles the 500 days surrounding the romance between Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Summer (Zooey Deschanel)—from their first glances to their final goodbyes. Everything in between is complicated enough, that Tom would rather remember the good times of the relationship than the bad. Wouldn’t we all, though? The story is told in a non-linear fashion, with a segue that ensures us of which day we’re in. Now, we already know that things aren’t going to turn out well between Tom and Summer, but it’s fun to see the events play themselves out.

Tom is a hopeless romantic who believes he’ll never find true love until he meets “the one.” Who is “the one?” Tom believes it is Summer, a realist who doesn’t necessarily believe in the idea of love. Despite this, Summer likes Tom and wants them to be friends. They hang out together, fool around together, and eventually, they start a potential boyfriend/girlfriend relationship. But will it last? Reality takes its toll, unfortunately.

“(500) Days of Summer” doesn’t result in ridiculous clichés to tell the story of this relationship. There are no silly misunderstandings where the characters think they hate each other and they mope until they realize they do. There are no stupid bullies—like an ex-boyfriend—trying to keep the lovebirds apart. Heck, Tom and Summer aren’t even necessarily “lovebirds.” Tom is the one head-over-heels in love with Summer, and it’s Summer that isn’t so sure about the idea of being someone’s romantic partner.

Instead, we have genuine chemistry between Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel, who are both excellent in their roles. Gordon-Levitt, in particular, has the same starmaking ability that made Tom Hanks a household name. I really think he’s that good. It’s his character’s story that’s being told throughout “(500) Days of Summer”—he’s likeable and convincing all the way through. And Deschanel is the kind of fun, free-spirited, attractive woman that we all wish we could meet.

Supporting roles consist of Tom’s wisecracking buddies played by the appealing Matthew Gray Gubler and Geoffrey Arend who have a lot of fun with these obligatory roles; Tom’s surprisingly-insightful younger sister, nicely played by Chloe Grace Moretz; and Tom’s boss, played by Clark Gregg. They all have their fine, funny moments here.

There’s a lot of offbeat humor throughout “(500) Days of Summer,” most of which comes from Tom as the unreliable narrator—we get many sequences that play with whimsy and perception. For example, after Tom and Summer finally have intercourse, we get a bright musical number—a song-and-dance sequence set to Hall and Oates’ “You Make My Dreams Come True.” Everyone is politely nodding/greeting and then they all join Tom as he dances with joy. This is complete with a marching band and an animated bird.

And how about the sequence shown in split-screen, differing “expectations” from “reality?” How often have we been down this road? We expect one thing—one great thing to occur the whole evening—when we wind up with something totally different than we wanted. This is my favorite scene because I can relate to it. It’s a very satisfying scene.

This humor shows that this isn’t one of those gritty indie films that try to make it feel like we’re eavesdropping on the characters. We know we’re seeing a story unfold.

“(500) Days of Summer” is as far from formulaic as you can get, and that’s one of the many reasons I loved it so much. There’s a lot to love in this movie. Aside from the perfect casting, authentic chemistry between the two leads, and a great deal of funny offbeat comedy, there are little things to acknowledge as well—the soundtrack (particularly the Smiths, which Tom likes to listen to), the whole deal with the greeting card company’s creativity or lack thereof, Tom and Summer’s attempt at copying a porno film, the satire of a sad French film when things start to go wrong for Tom and Summer, I could go on and on. Many pleasantries can be found in this wonderful, wonderful movie.

One Response to “(500) Days of Summer (2009)”

  1. arena23 May 18, 2013 at 9:04 am #

    Great review! Brilliant vocabulary and tone 🙂
    Check out mine! http://moviereviewsdirect.wordpress.com/2013/05/18/500-days-of-summer/
    All the best x

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