Movie Review: "(500) Days of Summer"
Maybe more than any other film genre, romantic comedies are hard to do. Comedies alone can be entertaining to some and offensive to others, and romantic pictures tend to repel male audiences altogether. So imagine what it's like to combine both types. And once you find an even moderately entertaining rom-com, try finding one that's memorable.
When a romantic comedy comes along that is undeniably special, it's worth looking into. (500) Days of Summer is definitely that. It's a love story told out of sequence, though that doesn't take anything away from the viewing experience. Unlike other films like 21 Grams or Babel, the premise here isn't at all hard to follow just because it doesn't adhere to the practical linear story structure. Many times, the arrangement of scenes enhances the film as a whole.
Take, as an example, Tom's (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) facial expression the day after he and Summer (Zooey Deschanel) sleep together, and compare that, as the film does, to his grimace several days later, when their relationship has gotten rocky. Needless to say, the decision to pluck moments from different points in time was an inspired one.
But the movie just wouldn't work if not for the incredibly likable Gordon-Levitt, and the positively radiant Deschanel. Both actors have impressive track records, but what they each do in this film should stand out as some of their best work. Their chemistry is fantastic, and even when one character seems more at fault than the other, it's hard to root against either of them. You feel for Tom once he discovers that Summer's moved on in a big way, but how can you truly hate someone with her kind eyes and easy demeanor?
The film's soundtrack is pretty great, too. Standout songs include Regina Spektor's "Us" and "Hero," Mumm-Ra's "She's Got You High," and Simon & Garfunkel's old school "Bookends." In the movie, Zooey's character Summer remarks that she loves The Smiths (who also appear on the soundtrack), and it seems that statement is true to life, as the actress performs a nice duet with M. Ward of the song "Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want" under the name She & Him. Additionally, two artists I've liked for a very long time get some nice exposure: Feist ("Mushaboom") and the British rock group Doves ("There Goes the Fear").
I will admit that I was reminded of Juno when the film began. Not because anything in the movie was particularly similar to the comedy with Ellen Page, but because it started off a little too quirky and bouncy for my liking. Eventually, though, the film does find its footing, takes you on an enjoyably unpredictable trip, and ends in a way that's both satisfying and appropriate, without adhering to conventional cliches. B+
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