(500) Days of Summer

21 08 2009

Director: Mark Webb

Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel


Boy meets girl. Boy falls for girl. Boy and Girl live happily ever after.

The tried and true Romantic-comedy formula at play in nearly every Romcom in theaters today is simple, predictable and noticeably not at play in Marc Webb’s feature-length debut, (500) Days of Summer. And the movie makes no qualms about that fact. From it’s promotional materials (one tagline reads: Boy meets Girl. Boy falls in love. Girl doesn’t.) to the first five minutes of the story, it is not hidden that this movie will grate against the norm of every blockbuster Romcom in the past few years.

First, there’s the (500). The parentheses are included in many promotional pieces (though absent from the poster used here – credit goes to Google images) and in the movie’s official title screen. They represent a ticker. A representation of all the days which Summer – played by the ever off-beat Deschanel in cleverly kooky way (it helps that we haven’t seen her drunk and disorderly outside of a club or had her name plastered across tabloids as a horrible co-star) – and Tom – the perpetually fresh-faced Gordon-Levitt whom is most well-remembered as the boy flapping his arms in 1994’s Angels in the Outfield, a lead in 3rd Rock from the Sun and opposite Heath Ledger in 1999’s 10 Things I Hate About You – have a relationship.

Such is the first anomaly. This movie is non-linear. Meaning we find out at the beginning of the movie what happens at the end of Summer and Tom’s relationship and then find out in bits and pieces blended together just how in fact they ended up there. However, while the relationship itself is non-linear, the movie does in fact start on day (1) and end on day (500) … or is it a new (1)?

Summer and Tom are not the perfect cookie-cutter little girlfriend and boyfriend. No, these characters have faults – and not the kind of faults that make them into pompous asses, but rather the kind of faults that real people have. Tom’s career path seems lackluster as he wastes away at a greeting card company, while Summer chose to move to L.A. to become the assistant to the greeting card company’s owner because of “boredom.” The stars seem brilliantly aligned when these two souls without a lot of direction find each other, however, as the days in the relationship progresses it’s discovered that these two characters are moving in two opposite paths that seem to converge for a short period of time.

The movie is a seemingly true representation of relationships in today’s day and age. Summer tells Tom that she doesn’t want anything serious at the beginning and avoids labels in the relationship. Tom, on the other hand, is craving a definition but at the same time taking what Summer gives him. He’s thinking soul-mate, she’s thinking short term and throw a bit of sex, angst, confusion and bitterness in the mix and you get any number of the relationships you see in your everyday life.

Aside from the main characters and their relationship (or lack thereof?) the movie is rounded out by an excellent cast of supporters. Chloe Moretz, who appears to have only been in 2005’s The Amityville Horror and a freakish amount of Winnie the Pooh movies, portrays a girl well beyond her years as her character coaches Tom, her older brother, through the break-up (days), and Geoffrey Arend (Garden State, The Ringer) is a convincing comic playing off of Gordon-Levitt’s straight man.

Deschanel and Gordon-Levitt have a lot of chemistry as well. Gordon-Levitt is completely believable as the man pining away for this exotic girl with a mind of her own. And their playful romp through Ikea is delightful and makes you wish you and your partner could do the same.

The movie seems to be one of the last vestiges of times gone by, though we can only hope that they’re on their way back in. In a summer where robots and bad acting seem to be the norm, (500) Days of Summer is a breathe of much needed fresh air. It’s romantic and it’s a comedy, but not a Romcom. It reminds me of John Hughes’ cult classics – Pretty in Pink, The Breakfast Club, etc. It has quirky characters highlighted as everyday people which is unusual today. Not to mention, it has a killer dance sequence that both makes fun of Enchanted’s “How Does She Know” number and pays homage to it at the same time. Plus, it’s entertaining.

Overall, this movie definitely receives a rating of: Good.