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(500) Days of Summer

A 2009 romantic comedy film starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel

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500 Days of Summer (...Bitch)

  • May 8, 2010
Rating:
+3


"Any resemblance to people living or dead is purely coincidental...Especially you, Jenny Beckman...Bitch."

From the introduction of this film, I knew the movie was not going to be your average romantic comedy. In fact, I would classify it as an "anti-romance." It's the worst situation anyone in love could be in. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who plays Tom Hansen, is in love with Zooey Deschanel, who plays Summer Finn. The problem? Summer is not looking for a boyfriend and believes that love is a myth, like Santa Claus. Meanwhile, Tom builds up this ridiculously romantic situation between the pair as he pressures Summer to fall in love with him. Well, Tom quickly learns that love has a mind and will of its own.

My favorite part of the movie is the beginning. The narrator, who has a deep and compelling voice, describes the main characters with a play-by-play of their childhood experiences that have led them to become the adults they are. For example, Tom's understanding of love developed because of bad British pop songs and his misunderstanding of The Graduate (didn't get this joke since I have not seen this film). Contrasting him is Summer, whose childhood was traumatic when her parents divorced at age nine. That experience defined the only two things she loved: 1. Her long brown hair. 2. How easy it was to cut her hair off. After this fantastic presentation of two extremely different people, the opening credits begins with the song "Us" by Regina Spektor. The song juxtaposed with old video clips of the main characters growing up is beautifully fashioned. I especially like how it ends with Tom blowing bubbles while Summer is blowing away a dandelion as if she is making a wish. Both children conduct similar activities at the same time that reflect who they will become as adults. I can't stress how magnificently this effect is achieved unless you have seen the opening credits. If you have not seen the movie, there is a small glimpse of this beginning in the trailer.

From then on, the film is about the characters (and oh do I love character films!). They are difficult to get right without spelling everything out about the protagonists right at the beginning. Yet, this film finds different ways to surprise us with Tom and Summer, an effect I attribute to the nonlinear time presentation. Tom comes off as a teenage boy falling in love for the first time, which makes the film resemble a "coming of age" story rather than a romantic comedy. One day he is absolutely in love with everything about Summer, especially that really cute heart shaped birthmark on her neck. The next day, he hates her and thinks the mark looks like poop. His emotions are volatile, childish, and selfish, facts that he can't realize despite the number of people who point this out to him.

On the other hand, there is Summer. Her character was even more engaging than Tom's, probably because she was based off a real romance from director Webb's life. As an independently minded female, I am naturally drawn to the eccentric single woman who stands as an example for feminists in America. I was intrigued by Summer's view of love. I was amazed at how upfront she was with Tom from the very beginning, even though he still misinterpreted their "friendship." She was an unique and free spirit; director Marc Webb describes her as a "manic pixie dream girl" (from The Guardian). This explanation of her character actually explains how Tom was able to fall madly and hopelessly in love with her so quickly. He didn't recognize her complexity or the fact that she was not perfect. It was his inability to relate to her sentiments on a deeper level that doomed their relationship from the moment they first laid eyes on each other. 

Even though I initially loved Summer, I found her character changing in ways that I didn't understand about 300 days into their relationship. She metamorphosed into a classic female cliche, and I lost respect for the intrigue and mystery that she had worn like a shroud around her persona for most of the film. I imagine this change happened to keep the romantics hopeful for "happy endings" in life.

Despite this fatal character change and flaw that happened to Summer, the movie fantastically portrays the ups and downs of a complex relationship dance between the main protagonists. I laughed at the good times, and I teared up at the sad and frustrating times. It was really easy to relate to Tom and feel sympathetic for his dramatic love affair with love, especially if you have ever been in a similar situation. Summer's character was also very easy to relate to as a female, especially if you have ever been hurt by love or are afraid of surrendering yourself to another person. The characters were perfectly cast with the actors Gordon-Levitt and Deschanel.There is a little bit for every type of viewer in this film thanks in large part to a well-written script and wonderful crew.

Another unique and engaging aspect of the film is the use of time. Tom and Summer's "relationship" occurs in a nonlinear fashion in 500 days. The day and focus of specific scenes is displayed with a title card showing which numerical day the next scenes will be about. Because time does not move chronologically, the film can jump from a happy and carefree day, like the first time Tom and Summer have sex, to a truly miserable and angst filled day, when Summer first asks to just be friends. The effect produced from this juxtaposition is truly astounding and comical, especially when said happy time is a Disney song and dance to "You Make My Dreams" complete with an animated blue bird. Everyone is wearing shades of blue and is extremely happy for Tom because he's finally "scored" the chick of his dreams, literally and figuratively. It actually reminds me of a scene from Ella Enchanted. Although it felt "gimmicky," it was funny because three minutes later Tom looks as if reality rained on his parade. Simply priceless.

The use of unique camera angles and animated shots are another extreme strength of this film. One of my favorite depictions of the director's vision is when the screen splits. Tom is depicted in half of the screen as "Expectations" and in the other half as "Reality." It was fascinating to see the points at which expectations derail from reality and the consequences of this disconnect. This portion was the climax of the film when Tom finally "grows up." Other interesting effects includes Tom's ability to draw (he's an architect stuck working in a greeting card company). At one scene, he walks away from the camera and the world around him becomes an artistic sketch. Eventually, everything blurs away to leave just Tom, along on the page, with his back facing the audience. These memorable scenes occur at strategic key points throughout the movie and add an artistic quality that most films of any genre lack. It's this attention to details that won the film so many awards.

The final icing on the cake is the soundtrack. If you are a fan of Indie Rock, then you will enjoy the music. Regina Spektor started the film with a bang that only got bigger as time elapsed. Other artists included The Smiths, Feist, and Simon & Garfunkel, to name a few. Each song added emotional depth or humor to the scene it was paired with, especially the Hall & Oates Disney dance of "You Make My Dreams." Obviously, the director chose his music with as much care and attention to detail as the unique camera filming aspects. The final song in the end credits is even one from Zooey Deschanel's band She & Him, which was a perfect way to conclude such an engaging movie.

Despite all my raves for this film, there were many downsides that lowered the rating for me. As I previously mentioned, I became disappointed in Summer's character as time elapsed. She wasn't the woman I thought she was nor did I like how she changed and conformed to the dominant standards of happiness in our codependent society. Second, there were parts of the film that dragged or felt too long. For example, some of the scenes with Tom's friends seemed unnecessary; they didn't add as much humor or depth as the director probably hoped. Third, there was an annoying infomercial at Ikea; I'm presuming they helped fund a major portion of the film to score such an engaging advertising opportunity. Finally, the voice over got a bit annoying (telling rather than showing). I felt like it worked at the beginning because it was setting up the scene as well as presenting important background information from the characters' childhoods. However, when a voice over interrupts the flow of a film, well, that's where I draw my line. The director's being too lazy, and trying to cut the length of the film by speeding the pace of character development. One final minor complaint was the relatively corny ending. It was a little much, especially when considering the entire scope of the film.

Overall, this is still a movie worth seeing because it will surprise as well as teach the viewer about love and fate. Some parts can be a bit corny, but most of the movie is unpredictable. Plus, when a film relies on the insights of characters to pull the story along, well, that is a sign of high quality writing. I would still reiterate that this movie is not a romantic comedy although the major focus is love. It felt more like a coming of age, anti-romance film. There are a lot of highs and a lot of lows, but the ending will leave you with a warm feeling in your tummy. You might even ask for seconds after all is said and done.
500 Days of Summer (...Bitch) 500 Days of Summer (...Bitch)

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July 07, 2010
amazing, amazing review !! This is one of my favorite rom-coms of all time and the great thing about his film is that it is not about a relationship but about how one ended. A truly fascinating film.
July 09, 2010
Thanks so much for reading my review on it, Lopez! I enjoyed the film immensely, although there were some parts that were predictable and a bit too cheesy for my tastes. Of course if you look at this as a rom-com genre, then it makes perfect sense. ;) I'm really glad you liked the film and my review!
September 24, 2010

You’re very welcome and sorry I haven't responded back sooner I know its almost been about two months. However, I have to respectfully disagree I do not think there is one single part in this film that is predictable. "(500) Days of Summer" is not an stereotypical Romantic Comedy with two attractive people acting like teenagers bickering and fighting until they finally come to a mushy, gushy ending where the man tells the girl that he loves her. That does not happen here like the narrator Richard McGonagle said, "This is not a love story, this is a story about love" and that in its own way describe the film in its entirety.

September 24, 2010
Also I have posted my review of "(500) Days of Summer" myself I would really appreciate it if you would read it.
September 28, 2010
Oh, no problem! As you can tell, I am also sometimes slow with responses back. Just the nature of life at times.

(laughs) I predicted a lot of the film, much of which was easy to tell just by the introduction and the voice over. I even predicted the ending!

I don't think the film is a stereotypical romantic comedy (mainly because I wouldn't categorize it as that genre to begin with). Some people have, and when I consider it from that perspective, I'm more forgiving of some of the parts I thought were cheesy, like the Ikea infomercial. 

I'll go check out your review now! I'm definitely interested in your take!
 
June 03, 2010
I still need to see this one, don't know why I keep putting it off.
June 03, 2010
(laughs) Yeah, I'm that way with movies and even reviews. :)
 
May 13, 2010
Very good review. I think this film might interest me a little. I'm normally not into romantic movies very much, but I'm intrigued by the time distortion of events that you describe in this review. I'm kind of a sucker for movies that show events out of chronological order allowing the audience to put together the chain of events. The role reversal thing with the men and women sounds interesting too. Hmmm......I may have to see this one. :-)
May 13, 2010
I do hope you see this film, Pard. I think you would like it. :)
 
May 10, 2010
Haha, I loved that opener to the movie!  I really dug this movie, but I agree with you on the character of Summer.  I think we were tricked into liking and admiring her and her convictions... Just like Tom :P  Great review, lady!
May 13, 2010
Yeah, I hate when I feel "tricked" about a character. Personally, I didn't like Tom. He was too "wimpy" for my tastes. :-P Thanks for reading and enjoying my review. :)
 
May 08, 2010
woo-hoo!! (me doing the dance) Fantastic enthralling review! I saw this once when it first came out on dvd, and while I appreciated the ambition, I just couldn't express yet just why I wasn't entirely impressed with it. I thought it was good, but I thought it lost a lot of momentum at times and then it picked up again. It certainly was an interesting switch of roles for men (the one longing for love) and women (Deschanel was the detached one) so I can see why most guys liked it. We do have this (ahem) emotional side. welcome back to reviewing, Adrianna! way to return to HYPE!! (hugs)

Btw, I reviewed Iron Man 2--I am sure you were expecting that LOL!
May 08, 2010
Glad you liked the review, William. I was working on this one for a couple of days. :)

Yeah, the switch of roles was indeed interesting! I didn't realize how sappy men could be, lol. ;)

Technically, I'm not supposed to be reviewing. I have my final draft and thesis paperwork due on Monday, but I really needed to destress in between the academic writing...so...here I am! LOL! I am always lurking, mwhaha. Next, I should be writing up a review of "The Classic" for the Asian Films Community. Do you know if there is a data point for it?

Also, I am soooo envious of all you people seeing "Iron Man 2." I want to see it this weekend too...but I need to work in the mornings and then writer all afternoon and evening to finish the thesis on time. Next weekend is graduation, so I won't have time to see it then either. Maybe during the week I can squeeze in a viewing... :-P

I'll be checking out all the Iron Man reviews early next week including yours! It should be fun. :) 
May 08, 2010

Aww...you need to take a break or else you'll go crazy. We miss yah and I KNOW you will do well with the thesis.

The CLASSIC data point is right here. I will look forward to your review! It has been many years since I saw it last.

May 08, 2010
LOL! I think I'm already at that point, William, but I will keep that in mind. ;) I miss everyone here, and I hate falling behind on comments and e-mails like I have. Then, I have to play mad "catch-up!" Thanks for the encouraging words on the thesis!

I clicked the link, and it took me to the ReelAsian community. Did you have a link to the specific item? I'm excited to write a review on it. It was a cute story. :)
May 08, 2010
Oh, I renamed Reel asian to AsianFlixFix because it had such a strong similarity to Reel Overseas (which I helped its founder name) so it is the same. Here's the main link: http://www.lunch.com/reviews/The_Classic-1452946.html I know you will succeed because you are driven.
May 08, 2010
Thanks, William. I noticed that you had changed the name, but the url is still the other one. You weren't able to change that too?

Also, thanks for the link to the data point. I will get started on that review sometime next week.

Finally, thanks for your vote of confidence. We all need encouragement even if we have the initial drive. (hugs)
 
1
More (500) Days of Summer reviews
review by . August 24, 2009
Much like the complicated relationship on display in this film, I had things that I loved and things that I could do without.  I liked the movie...I thought it was pretty good.  It might be that it didn't live up to the hype that I had been subjected to hearing.  Anyway, let's dive in      "You should know up front, this is not a love story"      The trailer tells it like it is.  You will not see a typical "boy meets girl" …
review by . September 24, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
4 stars: Love is a tough thing when you don't know why it ends
  No one really quite knows the exact reasons why there relationship ends or how it ended in the first place or why it came to end the way it did. All we know is that the relationship is over and there is nothing we can do about it they have moved on so should we however, that is sometimes easier said that done. Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon-Levitt)   knows this all too well as h e has just broken up with his loveless, girlfriend Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel). He is wreck after there …
review by . August 15, 2011
posted in Screen Gems
Don't be fooled by the opening narration. (500) Days of Summer is very much a love story. Just not the kind we're used to seeing.      Come to think of it, the title's also a little misleading. This is really the story of Tom Hanson, and the 500 days he spends being in love with Summer. But while we get to know Tom very well, thanks in large part to a charming and nuanced portrayal by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, by the end of the movie Summer remains something of an enigma, …
review by . October 11, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
"This is a story of boy meets girl. But you should know up front, this is not a love story."       Upon first hearing about (500) Days of Summer, your first instinct is probably that it is a love story.  It has the basic setup from the get go.  Boy meets girl and girl meets boy.  The difference is that the boy falls for the girl... but the girl does not.  In short, what we're really viewing is actually one man's misinterpretation of the relationship …
review by . October 06, 2009
 Perhaps the best way to describe (500) Days of Summer is to explain what it is not. Right at the outset, the unseen narrator warns, “This is not a love story.” But you may not be prepared for exactly how much it’s not a love story. This is not a standard-issue chick-flick tale of a klutzy cute girl who stumbles into a nice guy, or a drop-dead gorgeous career woman who figures out that her job is distracting her from her heart; and nowhere is there a grumpy …
review by . May 18, 2010
Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a twenty-something greeting card writer, recalls the 500 days in which he loved a girl named Summer (Zooey Deschanel). Though she made it clear she was a free spirit and didn't want a boyfriend, the two coworkers became involved and then parted, reunited briefly to be parted again.       This much talked-about romantic dramedy is fairly lightweight stuff, aimed at the teen and early-twenties set. To my older eyes, it seemed a bit of fluff, a forgettable …
Quick Tip by . June 26, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Cute movie. BUT I felt like it was trying too hard. Trying to be smart and hip, which annoyed me more than it charmed me.
Quick Tip by . January 25, 2010
meh.. entertaining enough to hold my attention. not great, not bad. also not very emotionally evocative, which was a bummer.
review by . December 30, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
(500) DAYS OF SUMMER is a refreshing bit of fluff about the dance of contemporary courting - with a twist. Writers Scott Neustader and Michael H. Weber demonstrate a keen understanding of the bumpy road of romance and have been able to make a film that balances humor and tenderness very well. Director Marc Webb encourages his two fine lead actors to give performances that could just be career boosts for both.    Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon-Levitt in a completely different role …
review by . December 22, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
"(500) Days of Summer"    A Ray of Sunshine    Amos Lassen    I just finished watching the Blu Ray DVD of "(500) Days of Summer" and I loved it. It's a love story that is not a love story as I'll explain during this review. We meet Tom (Joseph-Gordon Levitt--Golden Globe Best Actor nominee for this film), a New Jersey guy working in Los Angeles writing greeting cards. (He is an architect by profession). Then there is Summer (Zooey Deschanel), …
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Adrianna Simone ()
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(500) Days of Summer is a 2009 United States romantic comedy film. It is directed by Marc Webb, produced by Mark Waters, and stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel. This is Gordon-Levitt and Deschanel's second movie together (following Manic). Principal photography began in April 2008 in Los Angeles, California. The film opened in US limited release on July 17th, 2009, and will be released in Australia on September 17th, 2009.

Plot
Tom is in a meeting when his boss (played by Clarke Gregg) introduces the board room to Summer, the new assistant/secretary. Tom works in a greeting card company similar to Hallmark as a copy writer. He comes up with all the slogans for their cards. He is immediately taken by Summer’s beauty.

Tom talks to his friends about how much he likes Summer. While at first he plays things cool, he is convinced she is the one after an exchange in the elevator over their mutual love of the Smiths. He spends two weeks pining over her and executing awkward attempts to initiate conversation but can’t hit a chord. An opportunity arises when Tom’s best friend tells him that the entire office is going to a karaoke bar the following evening.

Tom arrives at the bar as his best friend is singing. He sees Summer and she seems happy to see him. Summer goes up and sings while Tom drinks with his friend and watches Summer. Summer then gets Tom a little drunk and has him sing karaoke. Afterwards, the three sit together and talk about ...
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Details

Director: Marc Webb
Genre: Drama
Release Date: July 17, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG-13
DVD Release Date: December 22, 2009
Runtime: 1hr 35min
Studio: Fox Searchlight
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