MOVIE RATING: 5 stars (A+)
(Updated September 29, 2011)
I don’t think I’ll ever tire of watching (500) Days of Summer (2009). It’s a movie that’s a part of the “soundtrack” of my life now…to use a music analogy. It takes me to a place emotionally that few films do…and it’s a secret place that only a few know about (get the movie reference here?). This film just happened upon me at a time in my life when I was going through so many of the same experiences and feelings as “Tom”…falling in love with someone who isn’t in love with you…re-evaluating your career and life purpose…making that same kind of idealistic speech at work…and just getting comfortable in your own skin. And of course we’ve all experienced some of what Tom does in high school and college when we began to date. Screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber captured something special here. And if you didn’t get it…then you’re just not there yet to receive it. This is a story that probably speaks to thousands if not millions of young men…and young women…and just people of any age really. That’s what makes (500) Days of Summer so special. It’s a modern take on a “true story” of love and heartbreak like most of us have experienced. It’s about learning how to deal with both the joys and tragedies that come with love & life, and opening your heart up to it. (500) Days of Summer makes fun of love and relationships like every rom-com, throwing in great jokes, but it also takes it very seriously and shows the real dramatic and tearful side as well.
Director Marc Webb and his team of incredibly talented fellow filmmakers crafted an awesome film. This was one of the best movies of 2009 and one of the few I saw in the theater that year…Thank God! I’ve also seen it on Blu-ray and in HD on HBO most recently. My previous review of this flick covered some of my initial thoughts and feelings about the film. But now, over a year later, I can see how much this film has really stuck with me both as a cinephile and a young aspiring filmmaker. I put this film in my Top 100 Movies of all time back after I initially saw it in late 2009. And it remains there to this day. Webb was able to weave together so many different disconnected ideas and bits of irony from dating that just come together so well here. Having gone to high school with Marc Webb, I had no idea that he would someday be the man behind the vision of such a truly great film. I just remember his goofy smile and laugh in Algebra class at Madison West High School. Everyone seemed to like him…and vice versa. But for his feature film debut, Marc came out of the gate with his guns-a-blazing and I can’t wait to see his take on The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) next year.
Part of what the screenwriters do so well here is flip the tables on the typical relationship, putting Summer (played perfectly by Zooey Deschanel) in more of the “guy role” and Tom (played equally perfectly by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) in more of the “chic role”. Tom is the one who falls in love right away and Summer is the one who wants to keep things casual and not get into a relationship. It’s a “secret” within the guy realm that we want what women want just as much or more than them sometimes. It’s just that we make fun of each other if we admit it…so we usually don’t…just like Tom’s best friends. Also “cute” is how Tom’s much younger little sister Rachel (played by Chloe Moretz) is much more mature and knowledgeable in the ways of love than he is. Usually its the older sibling that councils the younger one…but not here!
Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt both capture their roles in (500) Days like I’ve never seen them before. Both were at the top of their acting game in this flick. They bring intelligence, wit, emotion, and fun to Tom and Summer. The casting of both of them was as PERFECT as it gets. I think probably the most unique and interesting part of (500) Days of Summer is how it jumbles the story into seemingly “random” days within the 500 days that these two characters shared together. This jumble of mini stories is edited together so well by lead Editor Alan Edward Ball that it just feels genius! By telling this story in a fresh, non-linear way, (500) Days sticks out from the packed crowd of similar rom-com flicks. I know from listening to Creative Screenwriting Magazine podcast with writer Scott Neustadter that this storytelling technique was part of the script early on. But in the hands of a lesser Editor, it might not have worked as well. The use of motion graphics that flip through the calendar days, the deep God-like voice-over narration, and the music selections, all bring the script and its real dialogue to life. Again, this was clearly an incredible aligning of many different team members on the film crew to a unique and singular vision that director Marc Webb brought to the team.
The cinematography by Director of Photography Eric Steelberg is Fantastic! Paired with phenomenal production design by Laura Fox and Art Direction by Charles Varga, (500) Days of Summer is a visual feast. Every little detail just shines through, and when paired with the sound and music for the film, the perfect technical trifecta is hit! If you haven’t yet fallen in love or had your heart broken and healed by (500) Days of Summer, then it’s about time you took the chance and asked the picture out. What do you have to lose? There’s a lot of fish in the sea, but this is the one for me.