Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel, Chloë Moretz, Geoffrey Arend, Matthew Gray Gubler, Clark Gregg, Rachel Boston, Minka Kelly, Maile Flanagan, Patricia Belcher, Richard McGonagle
Directed by Marc Webb
Expectations: Extremely low.
This movie was better than I expected. It wasn’t great, but it had its moments. It’s one of those movies that people like to call “a cute little movie.” It tells the story of Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a greeting card writer, who believes that one day he will meet his soul mate. Enter Summer (Zooey Deschanel). But as the opening narration states, this isn’t a love story. It’s also not really a comedy. It’s more of a drama than the ad campaigns would have you believe.
The films unravels in a non-linear way, which I almost always feel is a clever device used to make a boring story more palatable. In this case it mostly works, but at only 97 minutes, it still feels really long. That is not to say that it’s uninteresting, just that some of the scenes could have been more engaging. The film is also an incredibly mainstream looking movie for an independent film. Tons of over-the-shoulder dialogue shots and close-ups. It’s not without innovation though. There are a few great ideas in the movie that are executed with perfection. Spoiling them would be just rotten of me, so I’ll just say that one of them involves the main character looking into a mirrored surface and seeing a very clever reflection. There’s also a fantastic split-screen scene involving expectations. I’ll leave it at that.
The film’s main character goes through a similar journey to George Clooney’s character in Up in the Air. They both have skewed views on love (for different reasons) and find themselves in over their heads, falling for this new person in their lives. They would make for an interesting double feature pairing because both films aim themselves at different age groups but deal with very similar themes.
(500) Days of Summer is also plagued with tons of pop culture references. I get frustrated with this kind of thing, but after the first 30 minutes or so they weren’t as frequent. The filmmakers were definitely trying to capitalize on the formula and built-in audience of Juno. The formula being: (Indie Movie + Indie Music + Obscure/Semi-Obscure Pop Culture References = Indie Box Office Gold). I don’t mind a well-placed reference but continual references to The Smiths go beyond augmentation and become demographic targeting. This is director Marc Webb’s first film and also the first produced screenplay of Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber. I attribute the uneven nature of the film to this. They’re throwing a handful of things at the wall and hoping most of them stick. Some do, and those that do work well.
Overall, it’s a moderately enjoyable movie that is at times boring, at other times clichéd, and at other times still, clever. I liked it, but you’d never catch me watching it a second time.
When all is said and done, this might end up being my favorite movie from 2009. I don’t mind pop culture references and references to certain bands, etc. I feel like it adds a bit of a personal stamp for the writer and makes it all feel much more heartfelt.
I don’t really get the “Up in the Air” comparison either. Levitt’s character was a hopeless romantic who craved the attraction of “true love” while Clooney’s character was a person who needed to maintain that distance and emotional separation. Sure, they both get burned and heartbroken, but the circumstances are very different.
It was a good review, and I could understand where you are coming from on some points. I just feel very strongly about the film, and feel quite differently about it.
Yeah, the references in this movie were fairly well done. I complain, but they do add to the experience. It’s just a personal beef that I got with that kind of stuff.
As for Up in the Air, I think the characters are a lot closer than you suggest. Clooney may appear as if he needs distance at the beginning of the movie, but as soon as Vera Farmiga shows some interest, he’s under her spell. And that’s the whole essence of that movie. He’s always been on the run, but he can no longer believe in it. He’s getting older and he’s aware. He wants to be with her, he wants the relationship to be more than what it is. She clearly tells him how it is in the beginning, just like Summer in 500 Days. Despite the warning, both men continue forward, choosing to ignore what the woman has told them. They both grasp at the relationship all the way until the bitter end. My point is that where Tom in 500 Days is young and consumed with finding love, Clooney is older and realizing that he needs to find love.
And don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it’s awful. It’s pretty good. I just thought it could have been better. I look forward to Marc Webb’s next project because I think that he’s got some potential. Although I think I heard he’s doing the new Spider-Man, so he might not get to be as creative on that.
I thought it was great and absolutely loved it. Definitely the best romantic comedy in quite some time (not hard to do, I know).
Yeah I wasn’t that impressed when I saw it, but after watching a lot of the other “top” movies of 2009, I realize that this movie is better than a lot of them. It definitely should have been a Best Pic nomination over something like Blind Side or An Education. Thanks for visiting and commenting!