Review: (500) Days of Summer

(500) Days of Summer – (2009)
95 minutes
Rated PG-13
Directed by Marc Webb
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel


Grade:  A

Like the opening narration states, (500) Days of Summer is not a love story.  That being said, people with the wrong impression might feel the need to get up out of their seats and exit the theater.  But trust me, remain seated.  This is a marvelous little film that does just about everything right.

Given that bit of information, the viewer should realize this is going to be a movie that doesn’t follow the romantic comedy rules of Hollywood.  No, not all on-screen relationship end in marriage.  Fate and destiny is just a wishful dream for hopeless romantics.  But the rom-com genre makes us feel good inside when boy and girl finally get together.  Disclaimer, this movie does the opposite.  Although there are “aww” moments, you’re not left with that good, warm feeling.

The story is told in Tom’s (Gordon-Levitt) perspective.  The order of events jump frantically back and forth, starting with the end where it is shown that his relationship with Summer (Deschanel) does not conclude happily.  But don’t get too down quite yet, because the film throws us into Day (1).

Tom works in an office writing cute and catchy greeting card sayings.  He’s good at his job because he’s smart, but hates it because he knows he’s wasting his time by not fulfilling his dream to be an architect.  But being the romantic he is, he believes that it was fate that kept him at that job because that is exactly where he meets the girl of his dreams, Summer.

Summer remains a mystery throughout the entire film.  She’s wonderfully unique, beautiful, and fun.  She wants to be friends with Tom because she finds him “interesting.”  Her view on relationships and marriage doesn’t suit Tom’s dream really well.  She’s her own woman who does what she wants for her own reasons.  She even tells Tom all of this but he doesn’t care, at first.

At the start, Tom didn’t mind.  But as their relationship got deeper and more significant, the mystery grew more painful for Tom.  He was holding on to the slim hope that he could change Summer’s perspective.  He felt he could convert her away from her free-spirited state of living and to settle down.  But Summer had absolutely no intention to change.

What is most interesting about the story is how we see what Tom wants us to see through his skewed, “she’s better than the girl of my dreams because she’s real” goggles.  The audience already knows that the relationship will be doomed, which makes it more painful to see Tom follow around Summer like a clueless puppy.  But the film isn’t about the end result, instead it’s about the road in-between.  Told with bravery, truth, and a hint of cynicism, (500) Days of Summer is a romantic-comedy gem.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel are pitch perfect in their roles.  I’ve been impressed by Gordon-Levitt’s performances in the film-noir Brick and crime-thriller The Lookout, but he’s able to show an entirely different side to him here.  One who is vulnerable but charming, naive but ambitious.  And Deschanel excels as Summer.  She has all the important qualities that made Summer so balanced.  If given to the wrong actress, Summer could’ve easily come off as unlikable and deceiving.  But instead, Deschanel focuses in on the good-spirited and joyous personality of Summer, one whom any guy would fall head over feet for.

The screenplay was incredibly unique and witty, penned by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber.  And in Marc Webb’s directorial debut, he takes chances and allows the quirks to be memorable, such as the use of split screens, black and white images, and a musical-dance number.  I’m still marveling over Summer’s rooftop party scene where Tom’s “Expectation” versus “Reality” was displayed.  These were the things that kept the audience on their toes with their eyes glued to the screen.

(500) Days of Summer was an outstanding accomplishment for everyone who was involved.  It does something truly spectacular: even when knowing how the movie was going to end, we still wanted to know what will happen next.  You don’t come across a romantic comedy of this caliber too often, so it’s highly recommended that you catch this film.


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