(500) Days of Summer (Fox Searchlight, PG-13)

film_500-days-of-summer_sm.jpg Probably a lot of the reason why I enjoyed (500) Days of Summer as much as I did is because I loooove the two leads, and they’re both perfectly cast here.

 

 

 

 

 

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Sometimes the first time you see a movie you absolutely fall for it, but then upon repeated viewings you start to change your mind. Maybe you get all there is to get out of this movie that first time, you think (one of my biggest personal experiences with this was with American Beauty, which I adored the first time I saw but can barely stand now) . Film critics live in fear of this…at least, those who don’t stubbornly persist that their initial reaction is always right. Although at the time of this writing I have only seen (500) Days of Summer once, I can’t help but think it’s going to be one of those films.

Of course, that is to say that the one time that I did watch (500) Days of Summer I thoroughly enjoyed it, and even kind of borderline loved it. Like an indie version of Peyton Reed’s 2006 Jennifer Aniston/Vince Vaughn vehicle The Break-Up, (500) Days of Summer sets itself up as a subversion of the romantic comedy genre. This is a film about the break-up, and not the getting-together on which most escapist Hollywood comedies focus. More specifically, it focuses on both, but just doesn’t give the end of the relationship the short end of the stick. Furthermore, it shuffles the getting together and the breaking up, cutting jarringly between our leads, Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Summer (Zooey Deschanel), one moment very happy with each other, and the next very depressed that it isn’t going to work out. The viewer is kept informed where they are in Tom and Summer’s arc not only by the posture and cleanliness of Tom, but also by a rolling dial between 1 and 500 that tells you on what day the following events happened.

Probably a lot of the reason why I enjoyed (500) Days of Summer as much as I did is because I loooove the two leads, and they’re both perfectly cast here. Gordon-Levitt has consistently been doing good work in film ever since leaving 3rd Rock from the Sun (especially in Brick, which pretty much forced the world to take him seriously as a film actor, and not forever associate him as the alien kid from that crappy TV show), and while Deschanel is always radiant, her talent is often wasted on independent movies of this ilk, but of much lower quality.

The aspect of Summer that gives me pause is that it doesn’t quite have the balls to full-on not be a romantic comedy. Although it is certainly (and relatively adeptly) fiddling with the genre, it is still firmly targeted at romantic comedy fans, of which I am not one. To give an example, during the film’s climax, the song that plays on the indie-friendly soundtrack very prominently repeats the lyric "You can’t deny you want a happy ending," which is maybe just a little too much for me.

Essentially what I’m saying is that, for the time being, I definitely recommend seeing (500) Days of Summer, though I might want to rescind that recommendation at a later date. And even if it does hold up better than I’m expecting on repeat viewings, it looks like it’s still going to suffer Juno syndrome, where I still love the movie but am damned tired of hearing everyone talk about it all the time. | Pete Timmermann

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