(500) Days of Summer (2009) – Review

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel star in Marc Webb's debut...

From the off, (500) Days of Summer places its cards squarely on the table; ‘This is not a love story’. Single-handedly saving romantic comedies, (500) Days of Summer is a breath of fresh air in a genre that is quickly becoming stale and predictable. Marking his debut, director Marc Webb has crafted a film that’s not only refreshingly realistic, but smart, funny, and most crucially, sexy.

Bringing the requisite sexy are Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel as mismatched lovers, Tom and Summer. Sparking the kind of chemistry restricted to secret government labs, Gordon-Levitt and Deschanel (unlike their on-screen counterparts) are a perfect match. Gordon-Levitt pitches Tom with just the right amount of neurotic optimism to verge away from annoying and into charming whilst Deschanel as the quirky Summer is so easy to fall in love with that it’s difficult to hate her when she breaks Tom’s heart. Broken down, if Tom is the film’s beating heart, then Summer is its calculating head, bringing the realities of life into the equation. And whether encountering Chinese families in IKEA kitchens, or drunkenly singing karaoke, Gordon-Levitt and Deschanel make Tom and Summer a joy to watch.

(500) Days of Summer has the smarts to go with its sexy, bringing a healthy dose of innovation into its representation of a faltering relationship. Jumping back and forth between the giddy excitement at the beginning of a relationship, and the bitter resentment at the end, (500) Days of Summer crafts a unique tone that is wildly unconventional. From the vibrant and happy-go-lucky early days – featuring a wonderfully absurdist musical number – to the heartbreak at the end of Tom and Summer’s relationship, no film (well, since Annie Hall) has so fully captured the ups and downs of a relationship with such real emotion. The aforementioned musical number, coming after Tom and Summer have sex for the first time, is a fantastic and hilarious visual representation of Tom’s emotions that everybody can relate to when they’ve found the love of their life.

Watching the good times only makes the hard times harder to watch, and screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber know perfectly how to play off this. In a party scene that pitches romantic optimism against emotional reality, Neustadter and Weber display exactly the kind of fantasy romance (500) Days of Summer is steering away from. Wonderfully directed by Marc Webb, the party is played out in split-screen displaying the events Tom wants to happen, and what actually happens. In this single scene, (500) Days of Summer finds its voice, and it shouts it loudly from the rooftops of L.A.; not all love stories have a happy ending, but hey, life goes on.

Stylishly directed by Marc Webb and wonderfully acted by its two leads, (500) Days of Summer has a beating heart to go with its emotional reality. Equally relatable from Tom’s buoyant optimism to Summer’s brutal honesty, (500) Days of Summer is a film that stays true to its voice and doesn’t pander to the clichés of romantic comedy. Charmingly offbeat and refreshingly real, (500) Days of Summer is an instant classic: genre-defying, very funny and touchingly honest.

Best performance: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Best scene: The musical number to Hall and Oates’s ‘You Make My Dreams’ is a fantastically silly and very funny scene that won’t fail in making you smile.
Best line: ‘I’m Autumn…’
Watch this if you liked:
Annie Hall, Garden State

The film’s blue-hued colour scheme was purposefully done to bring out Zooey Deschanel’s deep-blue eyes.

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