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(500) Days of Summer
(500) Days of Summer (DVD)
Member Name: m_illie
(500) Days of Summer (DVD)
Date: 01/02/12, updated on 01/02/12 (13 review reads)
Advantages: Funny at times, new take on romantic comedies
Disadvantages: Somewhat cliche, found myself disliking Summer from the very beginning putting me off her throughout
I'm not a romantic-comedy fan. In fact, I really, genuinely dislike most romcoms as often they're cliche, contrived and with the same basic storyline spat out time and time again with a different eager-to-please actor begging to lay the foundations for an outstanding acting career. I mean, I'm not necessarily too cynical in my opinion of RomComs, take for example classically trained living legends like Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen (two of my favourite actors in cinema and voice acting) - did either of those ever star in a film where they agonised over how to express their 'true' feelings for a girl they hardly know who tries to shrug them off like a cold?
Why did I even watch this if I hate rom-coms so much I hear you cry? Well, maybe I thought it was a documentary about drought in the Sahel region of Africa or even a strenuous bout of extreme weather conditions faced by Timbuktu in 1900. The reality is that I just did and you must understand, I'm not going to write this review, despite my prior qualms with rom-coms, from an entirely negative perspective so hear me out.
500 Days of Summer tells the story of Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a hard-working hopeless romantic constantly on the search for a woman to share his life with. Surprise, surprise, in steps Summer Finn (Zooey Deschannel), the new assistant to his boss, the new kid on the block, the non-caring, karaoke-singing, cynic who doesn't believe in love. As you would expect in a romantic comedy, a relationships ensues, however 500 Days of Summer is unusual in that for once it follows on from the point of view of the man, and he is the one doing the chasing. You feminists out there might appreciate this, the realism of it, the fact that Summer isn't a poor damsel in distress waiting for a man to come rescue her. I understood all of these qualities about her and yet throughout the film I found myself increasingly cold towards her. I'm not sure if that is something that was intended, or rather I'm somewhat harsh and unforgiving, but I simply couldn't shake the feeling and till the very end it was Tom in my favour.
The narrative of the film is non-linear, changing time and place frequently and progressing via a slogan at the bottom of the screen which details the number of days since Tom has known Summer. I found the dial an interesting aspect, as with no knowledge of the plot before having watched it, it made me think two things: one, was the timer the lead up until something huge happened, possible a momentous and happy occasion like an engagement, or two was it much more depressing and a timer until their relationship ended. Well it wouldn't be a rom-com without some tragedy! This makes for an interesting feature which helps the plot to evolve in a much more dynamic way which kept me interested.
Despite my constant referrals of the film as a romantic comedy, director Marc Webb described it as more of a "coming of age" story. Which to some extent, I guess I do agree with. It is necessary for those of us like Tom, to realise that if we really are set on finding that 'one' person, than to settle is as ridiculous as it is to right grievance cards when you have a degree as an Architect (a la Tom). Webb puts its excellently in his description of Summer and her shallowness; "Yes, Summer is an immature view of a woman. She's Tom's view of a woman. He doesn't see her complexity and the consequence for him is heartbreak. In Tom's eyes, Summer is perfection, but perfection has no depth. Summer's not a girl, she's a phase."
As I mentioned previously, I did promise to not be all doom and gloom so I shall focus much moreso on the positives. One is the acting of Levitt-Gordon who portrays a feeble, fragile man to a high standard. Deschannel was less successful in my opinion, as she was perhaps too obvious, too dramatic, too much of the 'bitch' character the plot required at times. In reality, the 'real' Summer is probably just someone unsure of themselves, unwilling to hurt another, after all, she did warn Tom from the get go she wasn't looking for a serious relationship. Perhaps I was too harsh on Summer, but I couldn't relate to her, and her later positive meeting with Tom was much too of a stretch for me, it made me still see Tom as though he was full of pathos despite all the positive changes in his life. However it did make sense in the grand scheme of things, in that in reality those who claim 'love does not exist' probably do eat their words.
It is all of these aspects combined that make for a half decent film, one in which I actually sat through, and one that saw me pining for Tom to succeed in his quest for love. Yeah it is cliche, yes it is at times very artificial, but one cannot doubt that the plot is somewhat, although I say this losely, original and the acting (from Gordon-Levitt in particular) is superior to other rom-com stars.
Summary: Some funny parts, acting/narrative and direction make for a somewhat successful film