This movie is not your typical romantic comedy. 500 Days of Summer is a fresh and funny film as it offers insight in how fate, attraction, heartbreak and hope are associated with a crazy little thing called love.
The film kicks off with a hilarious disclaimer that really sets the tone for the remainder of its 95 minute running time. The opening narration doesn’t spoil anything when it states that the film is not a love story, it is a story about love. The audience knows that the central romance between the two main characters do not work out, but we follow the journey of one of them as he tries to figure out why. The movie is not presented in a linear fashion like most films out there. It’s a nice play on how our memories work. We often sift through the good times and the bad times but it never really plays out in the order we experience them.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Tom, a twentysomething aspiring architect in LA who is making ends meet as a greeting card writer. He first meets Summer Finn (played by Zooey Deschanel) at a meeting as his boss introduces her to the staff. At that moment, Tom was a goner. Tom is a hopeless romantic. He believes in true love and dives head first into the girl that he believes is “the one”. Meanwhile Summer is a free-spirited girl who doesn’t truly believe in love. This is cleverly demonstrated by Tom misreading the ending of “The Graduate” as a happy ending while Summer can see the true ending filled with sadness and regret. After a series of events, they embark on this non-relationship. So did they love each other? What went wrong with the relationship? As we witness the little moments from Tom’s view, the pieces start to fall together and we see the bigger picture.
The acting in the film is phenomenal. Joseph Gordon-Levitt manages to make the most unlikeable character into someone that we can all relate to. Yes, the Tom character is foolish, but after seeing Gordon-Levitt portray the moments of hope, lust, pain and confusion, it is very difficult to not root for the relationship to work out in the end. Since the film was told from Tom’s point of view, Summer will always be a mystery to all of us. Her character could have easily been portrayed in a two dimensional way, but Deschanel brings her to life by filling in the blanks. With the aid from the script, her portrayal of Summer really makes it really easy for the audience to see why Tom fell for her, if not already falling for her themselves. The chemistry between the two lead actors is undeniable. There are many moments within the film when it feels like we are watching a real life relationship.
500 Days of Summer is a visually sharp film and it certainly highlights first-time director Marc Webb’s sense of style. With the convenience of having the main character Tom as an aspiring architect, Webb was also given the opportunity to portray Los Angeles in a different light, which is refreshing compared to the many films out there. The film was also well written with a touching yet funny script from Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber. Sometimes I find it hard to believe these two were also behind the disastrous Pink Panther sequel.
There were several highlights in the movie which includes a hilarious musical dance number that takes place after Tom and Summer had their first night doing the horizontal tango. Strangers and an animated blue bird joins Tom in celebration as people dance along to Hall & Oates’ uplifting track “You Make My Dreams”. In another scene, the smart screenwriting was demonstrated in the split-screen “expectations vs. reality” segment. It might take several views to pick out all the details that took place between the two screens, but it was definitely a memorable and heartbreaking moment in the film.
The ending is tidy and despite the corniness, I liked the added touch. Despite a few moments of unrealistic Hollywoodisms, 500 Days of Summer does an incredible job of painting a clear picture of love for what it is. Unlike most mainstream movies, it doesn’t go for the whole fairytale love route, instead it shows that relationships are a bruising business and someone is always bound to get hurt.
500 Days of Summer is an innovative, fun, witty, well-acted comedy that rips out a piece of your heart but by the time you leave the theatre, you can’t help but feel refreshed and hopeful.