So anyway (500) Days of Summer: I really enjoyed it. The idea of the film is to show the arc of a relationship that spans 500 days by jumping back and forth in time. The scenes are like vignettes from different days in the relationship and every time it switches there is a title page that announces the day: (500), (488), (1), (316), (28) etc. It works kind of like a flip chart and it’s a fun concept, utilized in a way that shows the highs and lows of a relationship in a completely relatable way. Don’t we all remember our long term relationships in flashes of good days and bad days? And don’t all our memories have a difficult time sticking to chronological order?
The two leads are wonderful together and their acting is assured and honest, not flashy or over-precious. At first I was disappointed in the way that Summer (Deschanel) seemed to be underwritten as a character. But upon further reflection from myself and others I realize that the character was meant to be written that way: mysterious, unknowable, uncatchable. Tom (Gordon-Levitt) is instantly enthralled by her and is soon convinced she is the ONE for him. The majority of the film is spent revealing to him and the audience that just because someone may be the ONE for you, doesn’t mean you will be the ONE for them.
The film has some really great fantastical moments. After Tom and Summer’s first night together, Tom’s walk to work evolves into an incredibly happy-go-lucky dance number as if he’s stepped into an MGM musical, when he is particularly down about their relationship he sees himself as the protagonist in a Fellini style film, when he attends a party at Summer’s house the film goes into a split screen showing the events unfold on one side in reality, and on the other side as Tom WISHES it would. All these were fun touches that gave visual interest to the film and seemed true to the characters, not distracting.
Of course there is much hype about the music in the film: The Smiths, Belle & Sebastian, Regina Spektor, Feist, Simon & Garfunkel, Hall & Oates. Too twee? Too hipster? Too much? Maybe. But for the most part the soundtrack worked and again, it seemed true to the story and wasn’t distracting. I especially loved the drunken karaoke scene and am tempted to buy the deluxe version of the soundtrack (available on iTunes) just to get Zooey Deschanel’s adorable rendition of "Sugar Town" by Nancy Sinatra and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s earnest "Here Comes Your Man" by The Pixies.
The one serious complaint I have about the film is the narration by, of all people, Leslie Nielson. It was really unnecessary (as most narration in film is) and just seemed an excuse for the writers to expound upon witty, wistful ideas about love and relationships in a wry, flat narrator voice. It was unnecessary because the film itself was already expounding on those ideas quite articulately and beautifully.
There were a few other little things that I could complain about, little cliché-y things, but I’m going to refrain, because they’re minor and don’t detract from the film enough to ruin my overall enjoyment of it.
Go see (500) Days of Summer and give yourself over to the bitter, the sweet, and the everything in between.
***On Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s website hitRECord.org, he’s posted the following video and here is what he had to say about it:
"Zooey's absence from the dance number in (500) Days of Summer was a tragic injustice. Here we have a remedy.
We shot (500) Days of Summer a little over a year ago. And even then, we kinda knew we had to do this. We talked about it back then, Marc and Zooey and I did. I mean, it really felt a bit wrong -- Zooey's born for musical numbers, and the one day she wasn't on set, we go and shoot a musical number? The wrong had to be righted. So when it came time to start promoting the movie, we had the idea to kill two birds with one stone.
Now I'll be honest; promotion, publicity, etc etc etc -- not usually my favorite part of the job. But this is different. This is creative. It's a work of art in its own right. And to me, it seems like so much more effective an endorsement of the movie than any interview or fashion shoot. Wouldn't you say? I wish all movie promotion could be like this: new, free bite-sized creations by the same people who made the movie. Plus it was about as purely fun a day on a set as I've ever had. Hope you like it!"