Review: (500) Days of Summer

(500) Days of Summer
Directed by Marc Webb

By Tony Sheppard
Capitol Weekly

The Summer of the title is a girl and not the season and the movie tells the story of Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and 500 days during his relationship with her (Zooey Deschanel). This could be a fairly mundane story, with few significant surprises, except for the way in which it’s told. And that telling will appeal to some audience members and drive others completely crazy as to some extent the movie becomes more about the form than simply about the tale, a phenomenon that often leaves me on the crazy side of the fence but which this time around I found really appealing.

As the story unfolds, the audience is presented with an onscreen counter that tells us which day of the relationship we are on and the story itself is completely non-linear. Such stories are sometimes frustrating, depending on the effectiveness of the direction, as they jump from one point in time to another without immediate clarity in the chronology. In this movie, we always know exactly what moment we’re experiencing and it rapidly becomes both a roadmap and a running inside joke.

This is just one visual trick in a movie that employs several, perhaps one or two too many, which on balance I enjoyed. Mainstream feature films are often very formulaic in nature, whereas short films and music videos are often more visually innovative. “(500) Days…” is a debut feature from a director, Marc Webb, who has previously made shorter projects and seems to have carried that innovation forward, in my opinion successfully.

Certainly to the advantage of the overall outcome, Gordon-Levitt and Deschanel are both appealing and believable in most moments of their respective roles as the hopeful and smitten young man and the girl who is skeptical about the existence of true love. This is a story that could fail purely on an absence of chemistry and audience sympathy with other actors in these roles, but they are well matched and effective during both the highs and the lows of their relationship. Additionally, the movie has one of the best pairs of opening and closing scenes I’ve seen in a while, contributing to my overall positive response.

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August 10, 2009 | 12:28 PM

This movie sounds similar to High Fidelity in feel and concept. Would I like it if I enjoyed that film? Also, the soundtrack looks pretty solid.

August 10, 2009 | 2:35 PM

I’m going to see this movie tonight. Thanks for the review! On a similar note to what Greg asked, was it like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind in terms of sequence?

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