REVIEW: (500) Days of Summer

29 07 2009

Summer always serves up a few indie gems, and “(500) Days of Summer” is the brightest shining of 2009’s offerings. It is hilarious, fun, thought-provoking, and refreshingly inventive, featuring brilliant performances by its two leads and a sensational original screenplay. It perfectly advertises itself as not a love story, but a story about love.

The film shows the 500 day ordeal of a rocky relationship between Summer (Zooey Deschanel) and Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Tom believes in the kind of true love that we have all been brought up to think is out there waiting for us to find happiness; Summer believes that love is not necessary to have true bliss. She has learned to be self-sufficient and has become somewhat introverted, seemingly oblivious to the guys that fawn over her good looks. Summer also has a deep need to be love, but she makes this yearning ever so subtle. Deschanel is able to play this crucial undertone quite skillfully.

One of the things that sets the movie apart is its depiction of events: they are presented in a non-linear fashion. This allows the audience to really feel the up and down nature of their relationship and to know that anything can happen next, a luxury that romantic comedies can rarely provide its viewers. Deschanel, who most audiences will remember as Will Ferrell’s love interest in “Elf,” plays Summer with the right balance of warmth and bitterness. She plays hard-to-get but also projects Summer’s need to be loved at the same time. Gordon-Levitt, who is perhaps best known for his work on the TV show “Third Rock from the Sun,” has puzzled moviegoers with his selection of films over the years, choosing some off-kilter dramas (I do recommend you check out “The Lookout,” one of his finest during this spell). This seems to be more familiar and comfortable territory for him, though, and I hope that he chooses more movies like this. He plays Tom with such irresistible charm that you yearn over his heartbreak and you cheer with his successes, especially when they break out into music and dance numbers to Hall and Oates (Gordon-Levitt is a surprisingly good dancer).

The chemistry between Deschanel and Gordon-Levitt is pitch-perfect at all times, and the two of them project the most “real” cinema relationship since perhaps Woody Allen and Diane Keaton in “Annie Hall.” The comparison has been frequently made between this movie and Allen’s magnum opus, and I think that it is a fair one to draw. The movie offers similar antics but without the persona of Woody Allen to make you strung out, yet in the end, however, “(500) Days of Summer” lacks some of the charm at its conclusion that “Annie Hall” leaves you with at its ending.

While Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are absolutely magnificent, the real star of the film is its brilliantly creative screenplay crafted by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Webber. It offers some of the most ingenious ideas ever to grace the silver screen, and its joyful quirkiness is just so delightful to watch unfold. It presents a relationship honestly, without any of the Hollywood glitz and glamour that seems to have coated our ideas about them. So often, the “opposites attract” premise is used in romantic comedies, but this movie dares to challenge them, saying sometimes opposites attract, and sometimes they don’t. A 4stars


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