- Rated PG-13
- Buy the BD
All photos © Fox Searchlight
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
e all know what happened “When Harry Met Sally,” but what if Sally never fell in love with Harry? That seems to be the main idea behind Marc Webb’s directorial debut, “(500) Days of Summer,” a wildly inventive romantic comedy that flips the genre on its head by way of some rather unconventional means. Then again, when you think about it, the film isn’t really a romantic comedy at all. Some might even be tempted to label it a romantic tragedy due to the story's somber tone, but that would assume the film is void of any humor, which isn’t true. "(500) Days of Summer" may open with a verbal warning that it isn’t a love story, but that doesn’t make this fresh take on an old tale any less enchanting.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as Tom, a failed architect turned greeting card writer whose romanticized belief in the idea of “the one” was likely spawned as a result of listening to sad Brit pop songs and watching “The Graduate” as a kid. So when his boss introduces him to the new office secretary, Summer (Zooey Deschanel), only to discover that she shares the same taste in music, Tom immediately falls head over heels for the quirky hipster. By the time he actually gets up the nerve to ask her out, however, the audience already knows how Summer will break up with him. That’s because the movie unravels non-chronologically throughout the 500 days that Tom shares with her, and when she finally calls it quits somewhere around the midway point, Tom sets out to win her back.
Like a Cameron Crowe movie written by Wes Anderson, “(500) Days of Summer” takes the classic story of boy-meets-girl and updates it for the Gen-Y crowd. Accordingly, it also makes great use of both music and narration – the former of which sets the stage for a number of cool moments. Early on in their relationship, Tom and Summer frolic through an IKEA store, hopping from room to room like a couple of children playing house. Then, Summer spends the night, and the next morning, Tom emerges from his apartment and becomes the focus of a Hall & Oates-inspired dance number straight out of a Bollywood film. There’s even a great anti-fantasy sequence where Tom arrives at a party being thrown by Summer months after they’ve broken up that uses a split screen to depict the Expectations of his visit versus the Reality of what really happens.
These are just a few examples of how the film stands apart from others in the genre, but for as clever as they sound, none of them would work without someone like Joseph Gordon-Levitt at the helm. Undoubtedly one of the best talents of his generation, Gordon-Levitt doesn’t seem capable of doing wrong (though his upcoming part in “G.I. Joe” might change that), and this is exactly the kind of role he’s been building a career around for the past five years. “(500) Days of Summer” is the culmination of that, with the actor exuding a kaleidoscope of emotions (often within minutes apart from one another) from the aforementioned post-sex dance number to a week-long bout of depression surviving only on Twinkies, Aspirin and booze. Zooey Deschanel doesn’t have nearly as much to do in the film, but she’s the perfect actress to play Summer, because no matter how much Tom or the audience may want to hate her, she’s unconditionally charming – even if she's just broken your heart into a million pieces.
Arriving on the heels of the Sam Mendes-directed “Away We Go,” “(500) Days of Summer" is yet another superb indie rom-com in a season not typically dominated by that sort of film. The two movies are very similar in some respects, and very different in others, so it’s difficult to say which one is better, but they both confirm that all you really need to make a good movie is a pair of great actors and a well-written story. Of course, Mark Webb’s offbeat tale is even better than that, but although it’s still a little early to be declaring it a classic, just like the great rom-coms before it ("Annie Hall," "When Harry Met Sally," "Say Anything"), this is one movie that could certainly stand the test of time.
Single-Disc Blu-Ray Review:
For an indie film, “(500) Days of Summer” is jam-packed with extras. The disc is highlighted by a lively audio commentary with director Marc Webb, star Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and writers Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber, but there’s so much more, including an excellent making-of featurette (“Not a Love Story”) and a behind-the-scenes look at the film’s Sundance premiere. Also included are some deleted and extended scenes, storyboard-to-film-comparisons, a series of promotional videos starring Webb, Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel, and two very amusing short films.