Monday, October 26, 2009

Film Review: (500) Days Of Summer

WE can romanticize, sugarcoat and read too much into it all we want but the fact of the matter is there is really no rhyme or reason when it comes to love. People fall in and out of love not because of anything but because we just wake up one day and feel what we feel towards the other person. There may be some mitigating circumstance along the way but for the most part, people just fall in and out of love. Period. Just like that.

In this refreshing and honest take on the subject, Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a greeting-card writer is a hopeless romantic who found out the hard way that no matter how many times he rewinds what went wrong with his relationship with officemate Summer (Zooey Deschanel), the truth is far less, uh, philosophical, than what he would like to believe.

Bottom line and as the sound bites of the teasers, trailers and posters suggest: boy meets girl, boy falls in love, girl doesn't. She's a free spirt, however, who found him interesting enough to consent to an intimate relationship. I mean, an architecture major who writes greeting cards, listens to The Smiths, wears alternative music t-shirts like The Clash's London Calling and Joy Division's Love Will Tear Us Apart and sings The Pixies' "Here Comes Your Man" during their company's karaoke night has to be intriguing enough for certain girls, at least for the short term.

Of course, Summer never really took the relationship as seriously as Tom obviously and intensely did. And for 500 days (that's almost one year and a half if you're doing the math), Tom carried a torch for Summer that while having its share of peaks was for the most part, filled with painful valleys. And only an actor specializing in troubled souls like Joseph Gordon-Levitt (The Lookout) can effectively pull it off. "I don't want to get over her, I want to get her back," Tom told friends in a rather pathetic show of false bravado. Well, moving on was always easier said than done.

For Summer, played to, yes, free-spirited perfection by Zooey Deschanel (Yes Man), there's only one rationale why her relationships meet their rather abrupt end. "What happened?," Tom asks about one of them. "What always happens: life," she matter-of-factly replies. She probably meant well and still haven't found what she was looking for when he came along. But for the most part, she was just bad news who almost drove him over the edge when she broke his heart in cold-blooded fashion.

With a non-linear narrative and an edgy, indie feel reminiscent of last year's Juno, (500) Days of Summer has cult classic written all over it. It is certainly far more original than the deluge of chick flicks like The Proposal, Management and The Ugly Truth that we've been swamped with as of late. The feature length debut of music video director Marc Webb channels both Wes Anderson and Jason Reitman in a very special way.

And with a big-voiced narrator that sounds like James Earl Jones (or is it Darth Vader?) and an equally engaging soundtrack that combines old favorites (Hall & Oates, Simon & Garfunkel, The Smiths) with emerging indie sensations (The Temper Trap, Doves, Black Lips and Zooey Deschanel's own She & Him), this "non-love story" that views love from a largely male point of view works in a way that can nonetheless be enjoyed by both sexes and should merit its mention alongside Singles, Reality Bites and Before Sunrise as all-time favorites of next generation hopeless romantics. As one reviewer correctly pointed out, it's not just bitter or sweet but, yes, everything in between.

(500) Days Of Summer is currently showing at a theater near you.

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