REVIEW: (500) DAYS OF SUMMER

Monday, August 3 by

It’s been several days now, and I can’t quite get this movie out of my head.  (500) DAYS OF SUMMER is one of those rare films that actually speaks to a young generation, but – lo and behold – does so in an intelligent and thoughtful way.  In his feature debut, director Marc Webb takes a relationship comedy to some pretty daring and refreshing places, not an easy feat for this genre.

A lot of guys out there are going to piss all over the idea of seeing this movie.  Maybe it’s the marketing, which makes it seem like a typical romantic comedy.  But (500) DAYS is very deceptive. At first, you do think you are getting your typical romantic comedy but you end up with something entirely different – something that guys can not only sit through, but to which they can actually relate. I’m happy to say this romantic comedy – and I use that term lightly – is made with the guy in mind.  (And yes, women are welcome.) 

The film looks at the sh*tty side of relationships that many of us men face and so few of us want to discuss.  But when we see Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s portrayal of Tom, a broken young man who yearns for what he can’t have, we all know that all too familiar feeling.  We’ve almost all experienced that desire to want someone that doesn’t want us.  But for men to actually confront and discuss this just doesn’t seem appropriate.  We’d all rather just talk about fantasy football.  But (500) DAYS OF SUMMER’s spot-on portrayal of the unrequited love bullsh*t is what makes this movie so great. 

And a huge part of the credit for that is lead man Joseph Gordon-Levitt, once known as “Information Officer Tommy” on “3rd Rock From the Sun.” 

He’s come a long way, and it was probably his breakout performance in 2005’s BRICK that put him on the map as a rising young star to watch.

(500) DAYS solidifies Gordon-Levitt’s place among the new young leading men of our generation. He’s a likable everyman that makes you want to root for him just because he symbolizes so many of us who have known these feelings of longing and rejection all too well.  (The jury hasn’t convened on his upcoming portrayal of Cobra Commander, but it’s probably safe to say it won’t outshine Tom’s credibility.)

This movie spoke to me personally and reminded me of the girl that broke my heart so many years ago.  And every once in a while I will have a flashback and just mutter under my breath “Renee Carson, you bitch”.  Tom’s relationship with Zooey Deschanel’s character – without feeling cookie cutter – is a proxy for every tragic union; for all intents and purposes, she is Renee Carson or [insert your own heartless ex’s name here].  I think this movie could make a vial of testosterone tear up like a baby.  And considering we are in a time when movies are disposable like the greeting cards Tom writes in the film, it is nice to have one that could maybe last forever.

I can’t speak highly enough of Marc Webb’s direction.  He did a masterful job with his first movie, and transitioned incredibly smoothly from Music Videos. Check out some of his work; you’ve probably seen it at some point:


You can see a couple more here and here.

Perhaps one of the best scenes of the movie is a segment about “Expectation vs. Reality”.  Don’t watch the clip here if you are going to see the movie but if you need something to prove how cool it is, there you go.

Webb was clearly a perfect choice for this film.  The movie is told out of order and in rather creative ways to convey Tom’s love and memories of Summer.  Now this could have been dangerous territory because, in the wrong hands, an average Hollywood director would have made a very conventional, run of the mill romantic comedy. And in the wrong music video director’s hands we might have gotten “Bulletproof Days of Summer”, Youtube: “Bulletproof Monk”.  Here I’ll do it for you:

Instead, Webb was able to add the right ingredients together: a dash of music video flavor with two parts great leading actors, with the secret ingredient, a well crafted script.  And on that last note I am going to do what many reviewers won’t dare to do.  Talk about the two men who actually wrote this male driven romantic comedy, Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber. (You can listen to a podcast hosted by the amazing Jeff Goldsmith on the writing of (500) DAYS OF SUMMER at Creative Screenwriting Magazine, or go to iTunes and type in “Creative Screenwriting” to download.

Neustadter and Weber both met at Tribeca Films. For those that are unfamiliar, Tribeca is Robert Deniro’s production company. A somewhat well known actor. Scott actually hired his writing partner Michael Weber several years back, to intern at Tribeca.   The two struck up a friendship and decided to collaborate as screenwriters.  The actual story for (500) DAYS is loosely based on two relationships that Scott found himself in, and the two men thought it would be a good idea to turn reality into fiction.  As one of Tom’s friends in the movie says, “The best way to get over a girl is to turn them into literature.” Perhaps a clever nod by the writers who were doing just that.  The literature though was in the form of a screenplay that would take on a life of its own once all the pieces were properly assembled.

From a solid script we bring on Marc Webb, the director, we cast the brilliant Joseph Gordon Levitt and finally the one person I haven’t talked about yet. Zooey Deschanel, who plays Summer.  I first took notice of Zooey in a little known film called ALL THE REAL GIRLS where she gave a breakout performance. 

In (500) DAYS she does not fail to deliver in a way that few actors of her generation can even come close.  I would dare say that Deschanel’s performance as “Summer” is Oscar-worthy.  Some might say she’s just playing another Zooey Deschanel character.  Either way it works.

Here is the bottom line guys: Take your significant other or some girl you’re trying to impress to this movie.  It can be under the pretense that you’re just being nice and sacrificing to satisfy her need for a cutesy romantic comedy.  But take a seat and marvel at what unfolds.  It will touch a raw nerve that so few movies can do and it will make you think back to that one girl that left you on the side of the street as road kill. 

And before you think I have ruined anything in this movie, just realize, this isn’t a love story.

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