August 3, 2009

Movie Review: (500) Days of Summer

500daysofsummer4_largeWhen I first took those first tentative steps into true movie love, there were a few genres that I shied away from. The first few steps taken between the cinema and I were a little awkward as there were only couple of levels on which we could connect. You know, there was the initial attraction for science fiction, horror, and action, then comedy and drama, then the branches started to move outwards towards foreign films and martial arts. Those early years saw me avoid westerns and romances. I did not think those genres held much for me. Of course, like in many things, I was wrong. Westerns came first, with movies like Tombstone helping to win me over. The tango with romance went on a bit longer. I cannot quite tell you what title it was that cemented my enjoyment, but it is there somewhere.

However, like with any relationship, things have been rocky as the romance film (usually paired with comedy) proved to be as formulaic and predictable than your average slasher film, perhaps even more so. Now along comes (500) Days of Summer, and with it the potential savior of romance as a genre. All right, that may be a little melodramatic, extreme, and not terribly close to reality, but for me this movie carries a lot of weight. This movie has an original voice, a fresh feel, and is completely involving. I wanted to spend time with these characters, they felt real.

500daysofsummerpic6The early moments of the movie feature voice over introducing us to our two central characters, Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel). We are also told that while this is a story of "boy meets girl," it is not a love story. This is not entirely true, it is just not a traditional love story. It is a great story of the search for love and the uncertainty related to whether or not it even exists. This is a movie that is not about giving you the answers, it is about giving you reason to think about what you believe and how there are no answers, that what happens will happen regardless of what you may believe or think to be true.

After our character introduction, we pick up Tom with the news that Summer has broken up with him. The turn of events has wrecked him. He is disillusioned with life, love, and decides to fight back. We are then launched into the series of events that led to this moment and beyond in a broken fashion. We jump around the 500 days in seemingly random fashion. Each stop gives us hints and clues as to where the relationship is headed as well as the changing feelings of our potential couple. A couple that is always a blend of potential and kinetic energy, never able to fully push the needle completely to kinetic, although they do get close on a few occasions.

500daysofsummerpic1It is fascinating watch these two danced around each other. Both are lost and vulnerable in different ways. They are attempting to find their way in the world with each other. They have such diametrically opposed outlooks that they seem to try and sway the other to their point of view, or at least meet somewhere in a comfortable middle. It is also interesting to note that the characters are written with characteristics that are usually given to the opposite sex. It is Tom that is ever the romantic, while Summer wishes to keep it casual with a getaway option (not that she necessarily sees it like this, but the implications are there).

(500) Days of Summer is an alluring one. It effortlessly draws you into the tale as it unfolds in non-linear fashion, pieced together from Tom's memories as he relates how everything happened. It is beautifully written by the team of Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber. They have a firm grasp on the story they want to tell and the reality in which they want to tell. Watching where the characters are and where they end up is fascinating, as some of their beliefs have migrated in the direction of the other, exactly what I think they each hoped for from each other from the start. What makes it even more surprising is that this duo was also behind Pink Panther 2.

500daysofsummerpic4The direction is handled by Marc Webb, making his feature directorial debut. He displays definite vision, helping breathe life into the film. There is a lot of visual inventiveness throughout, including a song and dance moment. It is great to see these visual flairs throughout, blending reality with flights of fancy as the tale develops.

As good as the writing is, as fine as the directing is, I cannot help but feel that Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deshcanel completely make the movie. They have fantastic chemistry and are a joy to watch on screen. Gordon-Levitt is not what you would call traditional leading man material, but he carries himself with great confidence, has definite charisma, and has proven himself to be a wonderful actor over the past few years. He portrays a sympathetic character who is easy to like, and is easy to identify with. On the other hand you have Zooey Deschanel who just lights up the screen with her smile and those blue eyes. It does not hurt that she is also a fine actress who carries herself well here as the independent woman.

Bottomline. I am in love with this movie. It works so well in telling its story of delivering the ideas it wants to impart on the viewer, the thought process behind the relationships, the chemistry of the couple, there is so much to like. I am not sure I could find a way to make this film better. Simply beautiful.

Highly Recommended.


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