(500) Days of Summer
starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zoey Deschanel
written by Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber
directed by Marc Webb
release: 07 August 2009 (wide)
Fox Searchlight, 95 mins, Rated R
“You should know upfront, this isn’t a love story. This is a story about love.”
Quite a brilliant summation of the movie, indeed. And you should know upfront that I dearly, head over inexpensive shoes in love with this movie, a flick that I would call about the next best thing since Love Actually (2003) made my jaw drop in its awesomeness. Phenomenal performances, a freakin’ brilliant script with honest and appropriately humorous dialog that could very well surpass Diablo Cody’s Juno screenplay, and of course – a wide selection of indie music that will probably make the CD a top seller. I could very well end this review right here and not gush on and on about how great of a movie this is, but I sorta wanna continue…
The basic gist (aka plot) is greeting card writer Tom (Gordon-Levitt) is introduced to the bosses’ new secretary, Summer (Deschanel) and pretty much instantly falls for the girl. Through a mutual attraction, a trip to a bar, and a common affection for the band the Smiths, Summer and Tom become, well, a “thing” for lack of a better term. You see, Summer doesn’t want to put labels on whatever’s going on between them, which off puts Tom a bit, a tad uncertain as to what they really are – boyfriend, girlfriend, what? Everything’s going good, though there’s a few bumps in the road, and then…WHAM: it’s over; Summer breaks up with him, leaving Tom in a state of anger, bitterness, and sorrow, which doesn’t bode well for his job that heavily involves happy messages to cheer a person’s day!
The movie doesn’t end at the break-up because it’s not solely about this relationship, this lost love. The relationship isn’t the important part, what it does and how it affects Tom is the thing that matters. We see Tom wallow in his grief and anger, we see the good times and the bad times, and we even get to watch Tom receive counseling from his twelve-year old sister as he tries to deal with his crumbling life (in about four humorous scenes). (500) Days is about love and life. The search for the ‘right one’, and the question whether or not you actually are destined to be with that particular person, and the devastating effect of a breakup (though let’s look on the bright side of things…LOVE!).
As you’ve no doubt heard by now, Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who took a break from brilliant performances to go all-out zany in this month’s action extravaganza G.I. Joe) gives a phenomenal performance as Tom. Hell, even when Tom’s moody and angry at the world Joseph’s performance is riveting, hilarious, and captivating all at the same time, an ability not often found in even the most seasoned actors. Zoey Deschanel (Elf) is absolutely adorable and lovable, but gotta admit, I didn’t quite care for her character, either it being the way it was written or her performance, though I have troubling feeling it might be Zoey. Adorable, yes, but it was difficult at times to get a hold of her character and to like her enough to understand Tom’s nutty infatuation outside of her undeniable gorgeousness and favoritism towards the Smiths. Eh, well, love is blind.
I especially loved the brilliant use of its non-chronological set-up. For example, a particular shared moment of fun on day 120 (give or take) becomes a redundant, ‘yeah whatever’ moment of boredom and tediousness by day 274. Just watching these scenes of different days and different moments of emotions is quite fun and interesting to watch, a device that isn’t often used in romantic flicks. It’s a nice way of showing the development of a relationship without the two plus hours running time that filmmakers seem quite fond of these days. I am simply in love with the movie's structure, basically.
The script deserves high praise as well. There’s definitely several lines that I’ll be quoting for quite a while (including my favorite happy-go-lucky card yet: “roses are red, violets are blue, you’re a whore. Bitch.” You can sorta tell when in the relationship this takes place). Aside from the brilliant, quirky, sometimes self-referential dialog, I love that the script doesn't dumb itself down for cheap laughs or dumb jokes; I love the completely bizarre but freakishly not out-of-place dance sequence "the morning after" which includes a blue cartoon bird landing on Tom's finger; I love Tom's friends 'discussing' their 'love' life to hilarious effect; I love the exchanges between Tom and Summer and the very real, very honest relationship between them and how it never feels forced. A great, great script with wonderfulness in every page.
When the movie ended, I sat there a completely satisfied audience member who just watched a great movie that I rather wanted to watch again right away. Joseph and Zoey are great together, and the script is witty and intelligent, and I can’t think of a reason not to recommend the movie. Sure as day and night, I will definitely be picking up the DVD and will see it before it leaves theaters. Much to my absolute surprise, August is thus far boasting more treasures than most of the summer season (Star Trek, obviously, excluded), and I’m quite enjoying seeing one recommendable movie after another (and watch as soon as I write this, I see a movie so horrible I barf out of obliterating brain cells). Anywhoot, see (500) Days of Summer!