Friday, August 14, 2009

Movie Review: 500 Days Of Summer (2009)

You mean, 500 Days of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, right? Right. Ever since the first quirky little trailer debuted, audiences everywhere have been waiting for this movie to hit the big screen so they can be swept away by a charming, romantic and un-relatable movie. Everybody wants to see a relationship blossom before their eyes on the silver screen so they can live vicariously through Levitt and Deschanel’s union and forget about their own shortcomings in their love life. Ain’t that the way it always goes? You watch romantic movies so you can have something in your own life to look forward to. These movies that set the standards for relationships in your own love life so you know what to expect because you think you’re THAT worth it to be Sleepless in Seattle, or to have someone keep a Notebook about you through your bout with Dementia (sounds like Dementor; think Harry Potter), or better yet, how you deserve to be a Time Traveller’s Wife.

Well you’re wrong. And this movie will destroy your expectations.

Not to say that this movie is horribly realistic and overly dramatic. It’s actually a very hilarious romantic comedy, but as the disclaimer in the beginning says: This is not a love story.

500 Days of Summer is a story that ruins it’s own ending from the beginning. It tells you the ending before you even expect it. Hell, it even tells you the whole movie in the poster itself. Basically, it’s a film about a guy named Tom Hansen (Levitt) who portrays your typical under-the-radar average indie Joe. From the clothes, to the music to even his not-so-cool-but-kinda-cool-job (he’s employed at a greeting card company). I mean, put him in a VW Jetta commercial and you got yourself the poster child for the mainstream media’s version of a relatable “edgy” everyman. One day, Tom feasts his eyes upon the classic beauty of Summer Finn (Deschanel) who is the boss’s new secretary and who also becomes his new love interest. As the days go on, Tom begins to pine for this fine young specimen who appears to be a mystery. From the get go, she’s put on this pedestal of adoration and eventually, with one confrontation (Summer approaches him about his musical taste, namely his liking towards The Smiths) he knows what he must do. Make this girl his lady. Of course, you can imagine, he gets the girl but not completely. There’s a few catches. Such as how Summer doesn’t believe in relationships and just chocks it up to being carefree and living your life. How she doesn’t believe in love, not even the possibility that it could ever exist. This poses as an obstacle for our little manfriend Tom, but if you’ve ever seen He’s Just Not That Into You, you’ll know then that when a guy wants to date you, he WILL date you. So despite these signs of possible failure, Tom fights on and does what he can to make her a part of his life. And as you can imagine, our lovely little couple’s story unfolds by jumping back and forth to different points of their relationship showing both the good and the ugly and all of the bad.

Here’s the only complaint I have about the movie. It’s pretentious. From the very beginning of the movie (mentioning Tom’s affinity for dreary Brit pop bands and how the movie The Graduate helped deform his attitude towards finding that special someone) to the middle of the movie (oh what? Summer Finn quoted a Belle and Sebastian song? No she di’int!) to the end of the movie (how many more damn Joy Division shirts can he wear?), the movie showcases the filmmakers ability to “relate” to a certain demographic. I mean, if the makers of this movie weren’t trying to make an “indie” romantic flick, then I don’t know what they were trying to do. Here’s one of the pinnacle points of the movie between Tom and Summer: They’re sitting in an elevator and he’s got his headphones on. You faintly hear The Smiths and she mentions that she loves that band too. Ummm, Garden State anybody??? Sorry but that quaint, innocent moment of musical appreciation belongs to Natalie Portman and Zach Braff people. On top of that you have the pencil drawings that look like lined paper notebook doodles illustrated by the artsy side of Tom that resembles the marketing scheme of all things Urban Outfitters and other subpar movies (try Napoleon Dynamite, Away We Go and other films I can’t think of off hand). I mean, all in all, this movie tries way too hard to relate to this particular demographic of a non-mainstream audience. And it doesn’t need to at all. The story itself is good enough and different enough to capture the interests of heartbroken lovers everywhere. So screw you 500 Days of Summer for shoving bands that I already know about in my face.

And as for the couple? Well, they definitely don’t do a bad job at carrying this film on their own. Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who by the way is a spitting image of Heath Ledger) does a great job at being a very likeable character. There’s this transition that young movie stars go through, I think it’s called their late 20’s. It’s hard for the world to see an actor who was famous for their youthful roles in a TV sitcom go on to do more serious movies as they get older. I mean, I know he’s been in other great films (Brick, The Lookout) and maybe not so great ones (GI Joe: Rise of Cobra) but to tell you the truth, I’ve not seen any of these. So maybe I have no basis. But still, it’s kind of like watching Haley Joel Osmond take on older roles (have you seen him lately? The kid hasn’t grown anything except for some chin pubes). BUT since this is the first movie I’ve seen Levitt exercise his talents as a grown actor, I must say I have certain level of respect for him now. He’s definitely got the stuff that it takes to possibly become a leading man in Hollywood and this movie demonstrates that charismatic aspect that every lead holds. Zooey Deschanel (who by the way is a spitting image of Katy Perry) on the other hand, she’s a beauty. Sure, she prances along the screen as this airy, careless soul but you can’t help but be captivated by her nonchalant attitude towards commitment. But this movie is not about her as the title suggests. It’s about Levitt’s character and how he deals with Deschanel and that aforementioned nonchalant attitude towards commitment. And lemme tell ya, it’s heartbreaking.

Overall, the movie displays the anti-destiny theme in a colorful light. In that I mean that it gives you the message that the notion of a “soulmate” is completely preposterous. It takes two to tango my friend. And by watching the movie, you will understand what I’m talking about here. There is a slight twist to the movie and you wouldn’t think it was much of a twist until you look back on it and realize the movie punched you in the face with the brass knuckles of reality (actually that twist kinda reminds me of the end of The Sixth Sense). You will feel Tom’s pain and you will be overjoyed by the end of the movie at what you’ve realized all along. You have to remember that “the future is not set. There is no fate but what we make.” Wait, was that Terminator? Thanks Edward Furlong.

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