23 January 2010

Movie Review: (500) Days of Summer


(500)Days of Summer
2009, 95mins, PG-13
Director: Marc Webb
Writer (s): Scott Neustadter, Michael. H. Weber
Cast includes: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel, Geoffrey Arend, Chloe Moretz, Clark Gregg
Release Date: 17th July 2009 (Limited)

2009 was not a great year for romantic comedies. Films like “The Proposal” and “The Ugly Truth” dominated the genre and were for the most part uniformly awful. “(500) Days of Summer” is however the ultimate remedy to such uninspired and revolting romantic indulgences, firing up a brilliantly shot, well acted and poignantly written film that treats its audience with respect and integrity. Just recollecting off the top of my head I would probably say “(500) Days of Summer” is the best rom-com since 2007’s “Knocked-Up”, and in truth once again my faith in the genre has been somewhat restored.

The film follows the romance of Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Summer (Zooey Deschanel) two very different people with very different outlooks on love. For Tom his life has been in pursuit of “the one”, the very thing he believes Summer to be. However Summer is a far more free spirited person and isn’t looking for anything serious, she wants a friendship with added benefits, no more or no less. The film follows their relationship over a 500 day span and outside of chronological order, allowing the audience to appreciate the highs and lows. At the very beginning the movie makes a disclaimer that “(500) Days of Summer” isn’t a traditional love story, giving viewers a fair idea of where all this is going, but allowing them to get caught up in a delightful journey rather than the destination.

The thing that really elevates “(500) Days of Summer” above the general rom-com riffraff is its raw and emotionally honest way of telling the story. Director Marc Webb has composed a unique film in every single way, visually it’s beautiful and frontloaded with quirk and imagination, but his translation of the screenplay into film is powered with a truly unrelenting emotional focus and ability to draw such splendid performances from his young cast. In devising such a finely tuned film Webb has made it clear he’s a name to watch.

Gordon-Levitt is tasked with carrying the movie, he appears in 99% of the shots and everything is seen from his viewpoint. Levitt has in the last few years slowly been building a sturdy career for himself through several good choices, and “(500) Days of Summer” continues the trend nicely. Tom is always likable and Levitt taps into some very rich emotional material to really form the character into something beyond the usual rom-com archetype. Levitt through his mannerisms and appearance also is a perfect actor to try and channel a sense of puppy dog desperation, he’s a hopeless romantic and when “expectations” and “reality” don’t align in one particular scene the actor is heartbreakingly good. Deschanel doesn’t require as much depth but she has a tough job in keeping Summer lovable despite her questionable actions within the central relationship, but overall the actress completes the task well. The film has no qualms about exploiting her dreamy good looks and bizarre charm, but Deschanel herself works hard to keep Summer from descending into the realms of bitchiness. The two leads have a terrifically fizzy chemistry something that only goes to make the denouement even more upsetting and poetically savage. Throughout the entire picture it feels like they should be together, any other result just smacks of tragedy and misfortune.

The screenplay is occasionally very funny but for the most part the movie is focused on fleshing out the lead characters and constructing the romance. Keeping an audience interested and entertained when the end result is highlighted so early in the movie requires sterling filmmaking and a relentless creativity when forming the other segments of the story, something that “(500) Days of Summer” consistently does. At times Webb debatably goes too far with the indie sensibility but for the most part it’s well balanced and good fun, the sequence which takes place after Tom’s first sexual encounter with Summer is a joy to watch and a prime example of how well this sort of weirdness can work in the correct hands. The script includes several subsidiary characters but they exist primarily to provide counter perspectives on relationships or catalysts for the Tom and Summer romance, the enterprise far more fascinated with providing the honest and at times painful views Tom has on the girl of his dreams. I expect that the believability the film brings to the romance will allow it to source a genuine cult following, people connect with what they themselves can feel and “(500) Days of Summer” brings a completely organic and refreshingly real take on love to the table.

I adored “(500) Days of Summer” and feel that with genuine ease it represents one of the best cinematic offerings 2009 provided. It’s a beautifully made film and tells a compellingly engaging story; certainly I doubt you’ll have seen much like it in the past. If like me you have become distressed by the onslaught of heinous and unoriginal romantic comedies of late, pictures like this are a superlative antidote, and I hope Marc Webb continues to provide excellent films that remould the genres from which they stem. This is a fabulous motion picture and one that I would recommend not just to rom-com fans, but cinema lovers in general.

A review by Daniel Kelly, 2010


hanum said...

I like this movie a lot, it reminds me of someone. Good.. Good..

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