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(500) Days of Summer

Posted 7/22/2009

(500) Days of Summer is the Regina Spektor of this summer's movies. As with the artist featured twice on the soundtrack, some will receive this movie with apathy and some will decide they don't like it because everyone else does, but a majority of people will be drinking the Kool Aid. Hopeful and romantic messages are easier to digest when you don't realize you've imbibed them; perhaps this is why (500) Days of Summer is one of the more believable romantic comedies in recent memory.

Tom Hanson (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a boy raised on British pop and a total misreading of The Graduate, takes romantic advice from his kid sister and believes he will never truly be happy until the day he meets the "one." Summer Finn (exquisitely played by Zooey Deschanel) is emotionally crippled by her parents' divorce and only seriously looking to have some fun. Unfortunately, she also proves a vessel just vacant enough for Tom to fill with his adolescent fantasies. Too overcome by love to heed her warnings that she's "not looking for anything too serious right now," Tom chases her in a masochistic game of cat and mouse--although she is actually a porcupine.

Summer is the feature debut for director Marc Webb, who adeptly arranges the out-of-sequence 500 days of Tom and Summer's relationship for uproarious laughs and poignant moments. Webb highlights Tom's euphoria after spending his first night with Summer with a full dance number (to Hall and Oates' "You Make My Dreams") and uses a split-screen sequence to juxtapose Tom's expectations during a date with the reality, dramatizing his disappointment moment by moment.

The real props go to writers Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber. Though Tom's ensemble of friends are sitcom clichés and the ending is cornier than Iowa, the script is original, fast-paced, and intelligent. Though Tom and Summer lack distinctive qualities, their story works--partially because the averageness of their connection conveys the universality of failed relationships and partially because Deschanel and Gordon-Levitt have such good on-screen chemistry.

(500) Days of Summer is not a love story in the traditional sense, but it is still a story about love--grueling, sweet, obsessive, and heart-wrenching love, a departure from the Julia Roberts/Meg Ryan fairytales of days past. This movie is the vindication of generations whose expectations have been shaped by the silver-screen only to be dashed by reality, a sentiment echoed in a speech by Tom. This isn't a movie about being in a movie; this is a movie that uses film to illustrate life. Whereas other romantic-comedies try to pass off an implausible plot and caricatures as chemistry and true love, (500) Days of Summer uses implausible elements to illustrate the extreme peaks and valleys in Tom's emotional world, delivering an ultimately hopeful and, what's more, believable message. (Emma Brodie)

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