Synopsis: In this quirky romantic comedy about love and fate, a young greeting card writer (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is hopelessly, helplessly searching for the girl of his dreams…and his new co-worker, Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel), may just be “the one.” But the 500 days of their offbeat relationship reveal (in no particular order) that the road to happiness can be unpredictable, uncontrollable – and unbelievably funny!
(500) Days of Summer 8.25
“It’s official. I’m in love with Summer.”
‘(500) Days of Summer’ didn’t intrigue me one bit upon its release. Long after it was released on home video, I still wasn’t that interested. But then I kept hearing good things about it, enough so that I figured that it might be worth checking out. So I picked it up from the library and decided to watch it as part of my streak of summer films.
Snicker, snicker… I was amused to find out that it has nothing to do with the season itself – that it’s actually about a young man’s relationship with a woman named Summer. What it is is a recounting of a period of 500 days in Tom’s life from the moment that he meets Summer, and how things developed from that point onward.
It may not sound like anything new or special, but it’s done in (what seemed to me) a novel way: it went back and forth in time, giving us points of reference along the way by numbering the vignettes from 1 to 500. I rather enjoyed this bit, in that it immediately situated us and it was quirky, amusing. I found it a nice touch.
Otherwise, there’s not that much to it – it’s “just” a romantic comedy. But the approach is what made it distinctive, not just in the way the story is presented, but also in the way the characters were moulded and the values that they espouse. It didn’t at all offer a traditional “boy meets girl, boy loses girl” or “lonely girl longs for the cool, unattainable guy” framework.
In fact, the neatest aspect of the story is that the guy is a timid, slightly neurotic type and she’s the more pragmatic, detached type; it’s a reversal of the average Hollywood fare. I especially liked that Summer was always up front about what she wanted and didn’t want; she didn’t ever mislead, pretend or lie. Tom had different aspirations and expectations, however, but she never played along – it was strictly his desire for something different that stumped him.
The moment that struck me the most was when Summer tells Tom that she doesn’t want to label their relationship, that she’s really not into that. From her perspective, all that matters is that they’re happy; it doesn’t matter to her what others think of the relationship or how they label it. Her attitude eschews traditional models for a “whatever works” attitude, so long as the partners are happy together.
I loved seeing this in a Hollywood film, because there’s so much pressure for relationships to have three levels: dating/engagement/marriage. I’ve long believed that these are unnecessary models, and that they can be too confining in a complex society such as ours. So the “whatever works” approach was my choice, and it was reaffirmed by some recent reads. Not all models work for everyone, and it was nice to see something different in a romantic comedy.
Of course, Tom had a difficult time with this, and it was best expressed in a sequence that showed us what he was hoping for versus what actually happened. This was achieved with a split-screen, giving us both in tandem. It felt so true to me, because my whole life has revolved around reality being so much different from how I’d daydreamed it would be; I have a romanticized version of life in my head, and reality is nothing like it. It can be disappointing and I totally related with Tom there.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t too keen on either leads. They are both very good actors, but I didn’t find either particularly interesting. I do have preconceptions, though: Joseph Gordon-Levitt almost always gives me the impression of someone with a hidden pain (drugs? depression?); he has a puppy-dog look, but there’s something behind those eyes. Zooey Deschanel, meanwhile, always seems so stuck up to me; I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I find that she emanates an unappealing uptightness, a slight coldness.
Still, they give the characters a more true-to-life quality than a pair of cookie-cutter actors would have. And that’s a terrific thing. ‘(500) Days of Summer’ may only be a romantic comedy, but it was put together done with just the right amount of clever style and non-conformism that it made it special. Heck, even the ending surprisingly manages to avoid Hollywood conventions – a rare thing indeed in a sappy genre that thrives on déjà-vu, Hallmark moments.