Thursday, August 6, 2009

(500) Days of Summer

Here’s a romantic comedy: boy meets girl, boy falls for girl, boy and girl celebrate good times via a cheesy montage, boy and girl fight, boy and girl breakup, boy and girl get back together, boy and girl live happily ever after.

With a few minor discrepancies, this is usually the way the genre plays out. So how do you make an affecting, engaging rom-com? First, show as many of the delicate, honest moments that fall in between the moments listed above. Second, show all of those moments out of order.

(500) Days of Summer is the best, most original romantic comedy since Annie Hall. Its plot is simple: boy meets girl, office romance ensues; but it’s execution is far from basic.

When Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) a failed architect student now working as a greeting card writer, gets his first glimpse of his boss's new assistant, Summer (Zooey Deschanel), he’s immediately infatuated. It doesn’t take long for sparks to fly.

What follows is one of the most tender, realistic screen romances I’ve ever seen. Director Marc Webb, working off a fresh, Oscar-friendly script by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, makes several bold decisions in telling this tale. Much like Annie Hall, (500) Days of Summer uses several different narrative devices to fuel its story. These include, non-linear, song and dance, catchy animation, fourth-wall dialogue (when the actor looks directly into the camera), and so on. Although, I have a slight feeling that none of this would work without Webb’s wise choice of actors.

Gordon-Levitt, the best actor of his generation, simply astounds here. If you’ve seen his string of brilliant indie films (Manic, Mysterious Skin, Brick, The Lookout) then you know you’ve got an actor whose talent is way beyond his years (that’s a good thing). But as Tom, Gordon-Levitt may deliver his best role yet. From his initial lust, through his glee, all the way to his angst and eventual bewilderment, you’ll believe Gordon-Levitt’s every facial twitch, his every controlled nuance.

Deschanel, who has delivered solid, charming performances in mediocre films like Elf and Yes Man, is outstanding as the flaky, unimpressionable Summer. Deschanel’s big, blue eyes are enough to melt any man. Try not to fall victim to her charm.

Together, these two present a kind of screen chemistry that other actors work their entire careers to achieve. The believability of Tom and Summer’s tumultuous affair is utterly seamless. A true delight.

(500) Days of Summer will most likely take the title of “this year’s Juno” (dethroning Away We Go). Neustadter and Weber deserve a Best Original Screenplay Oscar simply for the title card that begins the film. It sets a marvelous tone. Enjoy the ride, Summer is in season for months to come. A


  1. I have just seen this film and I am delighted. It is my favorite movie of the summer (no pun intended). I am so refreshed that the characters weren't deeply defined; by that I mean you didn't find out about childhoods, etc. So many movies like this would have tried to explain why things were the way they were. This movie was very real. Simply excellent!

  2. Hypothesis: Romantic comedies, like any genre, can be excellent films if made intelligently, with a strong script, talented actors, and a creative approach.

    Proof: This film.

    1. Hell yeah man! I understand why most romcoms are the way they are - aside from paying a few big names, you can budget them for cheap, and potentially make a shitload of money. I'm not saying every romcom has to do something different like 500 Days, but changing things up occasionally doesn't hurt. I'm just so desensitized to formulaic films. They only belittle the medium.