by Ken B.
(500) Days of Summer occupies something collectively known as “indie charm” – the possibly mythical part of independent cinema that has a likeability that stems from a certain sense of self-assessment that most mainstream features are far too afraid to occupy. Other than that, how could you tell that this was an independent film? It avoided all of the tomes, clichés, and general groan-inducing moments most romantic comedies have. Actually, now that I think of it, I wouldn’t even call it a “romantic comedy”. It’s more or less a well-written, acted, and shot dramedy, that just happens to be about a relationship. It certainly wants to be that way. The tagline of the movie is “Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love. Girl doesn’t”, and the final line of an opening narration is “this is not a love story.”
Originality is open here. Told in a nonlinear format, each segment of the 95-minute film shows one day of the relationship between Tom (JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT) and Summer (ZOOEY DESCHANEL). Introduced each time by a title card, this film starts on Day 288, and then bounces around throughout the story. But it’s still quite easy to discern the characters. Tom works as a writer for a greeting card company (but, explained time and time again, he trained to be an architect), and believes that he’ll never truly be happy until he finds “the one”, a belief the narration attributes to “an early exposure to sad British pop music and a total misreading of the movie The Graduate.” Summer works as an intern at the company, and it’s explained that she has a certain charm on everyone she meets. However, she does not believe true love exists, and Tom takes it upon himself for her to change her mind. The relationship twists and turns. Shown through good days and bad days, the mood is effectively set through three things: a strong screenplay that never beats around the bush, solid acting from our two lead characters, and subtle lighting techniques to show how smooth (or not) the relationship is moving.
Every aspect of this movie pays off very well. Gordon-Levitt is very likable and charismatic playing Tom, expressing joy and pain with and without words, radiating to the viewer. His chemistry with Deschanel is impeccably glowing. Most of the color scheme seems to be centered around Deschanel’s blue eyes, on a visual note. Supporting performances from Chloe Grace Moretz as Tom’s younger sister, Geoffrey Arend and Matthew Gray Gubler as Tom’s friends, and Clark Gregg as the head of the greeting card company all working towards a great acting front.
This movie was the feature debut of director Marc Webb, and he does an excellent job crafting the story. The script by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber appears a bit unnaturally quirky up front, but it all works to the film’s advantage in the end (an example is a big, elaborate dance number to “You Make My Dreams” by Hall & Oates). Neustadter claims that a large portion of the film was drawn from personal experience, explaining the mood and naturally developed characters. (This may be comically addressed in a series of title cards at the start of the film).
(500) Days of Summer is a creative, complete piece, always enjoyable and expressing emotion realistically through fantastic writing, acting, and direction. For everyone existing on the romantic comedy spectrum, it fits in. Those already fans of the genre will enjoy this one, and those who despise it (which is my category) can still find a fresh, gratifying film, filled with direct references to several well-regarded pieces of art in the same medium of its own, and perhaps, I may say, an indirect one around Day 470 towards Groundhog Day.