The story in a sentence: A young man falls head over heels for a non-committal girl, and desperately tries to get over her after their break up.
Hollywood has a structure for how romantic comedies are supposed to unfold. Usually it involves either Jennifer Aniston or Matthew McConaughey (sometimes both!).
(500) Days of Summer is not one of those films. Not by a long shot.
Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) always grew up believing in the romanticized idea of love. That someday, he would fall madly in love with a girl and that they would live happily ever after together. Until the point that he finds said girl, his life is empty and meaningless.
While working at a greeting card company, Tom meets Summer (Zooey Deschanel) and upon first glance he knows that she is “The One”.
Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.
The film is broken up into separate parts of their relationship, which lasts exactly 500 days (suddenly, the title makes so much sense!). The days are shown out of order, sometimes ranging from day 478 to day 1 and vice versa. While the idea sounds jarring and confusing, the film actually flows quite well, as long as you can do basic math to know which day is further back in time. Director Marc Webb said that this was done intentionally, because when remembering a relationship, you hardly ever do so in chronological order, but in tiny bits broken up and scattered about. In this way the film is almost like a glimpse into Tom’s mind, however, it never quite feels that way.
Deschanel and Gordon-Levitt work especially well together, delivering more than convincing performances and showing excellent onscreen chemistry. Together, they really create a fly-on-the-wall view of the modern day relationship, with all its hilarious pitfalls. However, don’t confuse the comedy in this film to that of the average Hollywood genre flick. (500) Days of Summer laughs more at the hilarity of situations and conversations than “Hey, let’s knock Matthew McConaughey off the side of a boat!” (Okay, I admit I do have a small hatred for “Failure to Launch”). This is all exaggerated by great performances from Geoffrey Arend and Matthew Gray Gubler, who play Tom’s best friends.
At this point, I’m sure you’re thinking “God, Spike, I thought you said this film was different than the average romantic comedy. Sure seems cookie cutter enough to me.” Touche, random audience member. Let me now present to you the average romantic comedy…
HOW HOLLYWEIRD DOES GENRE’S:
Step 1: Boy meets girl.
Step 2: Boy dates girl.
Step 3: Girl breaks up with boy after he does something stupid.
Step 4: Boy fights to get girl back.
Step 5: They live happily ever after.
Step 6: Sex.
Now, look at how the structure of (500) Days goes…
(500) DAYS OF SUMMER
Step 1: Tom meets Summer.
Step 2: Tom dates Summer.
Step 3: Summer breaks up with Tom because she doesn’t love him.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is what we in the industry like to call originality. It’s hardly used these days and let’s face it, this has happened before in films. The fact is that we’ve become so accustomed to the average laugh-a-minute movies that when a film comes along and doesn’t deliver that, it totally floors us. Such is the way with (500) Days of Summer.
In addition to excellent characters, Webb directs a stunning visual masterpiece that I can honestly say showed me things I have never seen done with a film before. Not that this is an art piece by any means, but this film truly used artistic means to further the film.
Case in point: the split-screen scene. By no means is the use of split-screen groundbreaking, but Webb uses it as a window into the character’s mind. During the scene, Tom is going to a party Summer is throwing post break-up. He hopes that it goes one way, but it instead turns out differently. In what I can only describe as cinematic genius, Webb is able to show us both – at the same time.
The jury still seems to be out on this film as a whole. I show this to my friends all the time and they either seem to love it’s original quirkiness or they can’t find a way to jive with the film’s main protagonists. I thoroughly encourage you to watch it and see for yourself.
If you’re anything like me, it’ll knock you off you’re feet.
I give this film 5 unexpected break-ups out of 5.