Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Review: 500 Days of Summer (Marc Webb, 2009)

500 Days of Summer was a film that originally passed under my radar, but through positive word of mouth and a series of favorable reviews, it became one of my most anticipated watches on New Release DVD. It is a fantastic, offbeat comedy/drama that really hits home some emotional punch through the unpredictable story of the central male protagonist, Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon-Levitt in a quality performance) and his failed relationship with 'the one', Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel, looking dazzling).

The non-linear narrative jumps from periods early in their relationship to stages near the end, and while this suggests that much of the plot is revealed early on, the message behind these stages in the relationship is critiqued and examined by Tom in reflection, and the jump cuts work very well. The day they meet is day 1 etc, and the story unravels without linearity all the way to day 500. The screenplay is marvelous and should have received some recognition at the Oscars. A believer in true love, Tom realizes, after a few awkward conversations, that Summer is the woman of his dreams, the type that comes around once in a lifetime. After a karaoke night, she acknowledges his attraction to her, and then reciprocates a few days later in the copy room, and they become very close. She makes it clear early in their 'friendship' that she doesn't believe in true love and wasn't looking for a boyfriend, despite their romantic connection. Tom is frustrated that she considers them only 'friends' despite what they had already shared together. At day 290 they break up, sending Tom plummeting into depression and eventually leaving his job at the greeting card company, seeking out his dreams of being an architect.

The film references The Graduate, a film that stresses that true love does exist and Dustin Hoffman's character goes to extreme lengths to win back the girl that he loves. Tom's story is similar and he fantasizes about re-kindling his relationship with Summer at a party she invites him to. The image is split, with one half playing out to his 'expectations' and the other half the 'reality'. The reality is that Summer was getting engaged to another man, and had ended the relationship with Tom following a screening of The Graduate because she finally accepted his view on true love and realized that it wasn't him she was looking for. It's a heartbreaking revelation, and personally, I was moved. 500 Days of Summer has heart and substance, and actually makes you feel something about these attractive and likable characters. I related pretty well to Tom's character, as I am a similar sort of guy.

The thoughtful conclusion, once we learn that Summer is engaged to marry, is thankfully positive for Tom's character, who appears to have finally moved on. It is just a fantastic film. A clever, quirky screenplay, really likable characters, and beautiful cinematography that reveals all the hidden treasures of Los Angeles. It is not the usual hustle and bustle, but the quaint cafes, bars and parks that are often ignored or forgotten. Architecture plays a big role in the image, as the pair often wonder the streets examining the buildings, with Tom describing them. Their relationship is also a construction, building it up from the ground, only to see it knocked down and destroyed. One of the key themes is that nothing lasts forever, and this stems from his occupation at the greeting card company, and Tom jokingly compares greeting cards as eternal messages of love that can outlast an architectural structure. Of course, in an indie film like this, the soundtrack is also outstanding; featuring The Smiths and Simon and Garfunkel. Definitely a great way to spend a couple of hours, this is a hidden gem from 2009.

My Rating: 4 Stars


  1. Hey, I just discovered this post and want you to know that I completely agree about this film being a gem. This is one of the few films of this genre that I think ends realistically...

    There are so many films that seem to imply that if you 'love' someone enough they'll eventually just fall in love with you too.. I like that this film shows that more often than not it doesn't turn out that way BUT that also doesn't mean it's the end of the world as he eventually moves on..

    I especially like the sequence where we see his expectations vs reality.. It shows that you'll inevitably be disappointed if you always cling to expectation..

    So yes, great post!

  2. This is one of my favorite movies. I love everything about it, the music, cast and just...everything. It's one of the best coming-of-age theme, where Tom learns that he's not meant to be with Summer.

  3. I really enjoyed it. The original style, the likeable characters, and the fact that it doesn't adhere to similar tropes. Not every film has to end with the girl/guy getting 'the one' but it can still end in a nice way. Haha.