Monday, August 10, 2009

FILM REVIEW: 500 Days of Summer

This romantic indie is about a guy (Joseph Gordon Levitt) who falls in love with a wide-eyed brunette beauty (Zooey Deschanel)—a guy with a reputation for falling hard a lot. So much so, that his teenage sister becomes the go-to for picking up his pathetic pieces, because when he falls hard, he inevitably shatters. He's a hopeless romantic, and in this film lies the theory—a valid one—that there do exist females on this planet who do not possess such a love philosophy.

Am I one? I'd say I'm on the fence. I wouldn't disregard the possibility that true love exists, but I've never seen it. Then again, plenty of people worship a God they've never seen. I think your enjoyment of this film isn't based on whether or not you believe in true love, but in whether you can pity someone who does. If you can, then you'll totally connect with Tom. You'll get why he has no problem risking his sanity to woo a girl who prefaced their relationship with a stern declaration that she has no intentions of falling in love and no interest in having a boyfriend, let alone a husband. You'll get why he puts up with her oddball methods of entertaining herself, like screaming "penis" loudly around children in a public park. You'll get why every moment of every day is filled with memories of Summer.

BUT, if you can't pity him, if you just think he's a fool, then you might actually find fault with the film. You might be one of the many skeptics who find his comical agony to be quite unbearable. You might find his obsession with Summer to be pathetic and unwarranted. You might even start to hate her and pray to the heavens for him to let. it. go.

Since I'm on the fence, I experienced both emotions: pity and frustration. I never really do enjoy films where boys obsess over a certain girl who 1) they don't even know 2) they have only judged based on her looks and 3) doesn't even deserve it. (This was my main gripe for the progressing nuisance that was Rory Gilmore and Jess Mariano's relationship on "Gilmore Girls.") I feel your pain. Even though we didn't experience all 500 days he was in love with Summer, it sure as hell felt almost as excruciating as if we did. This was a story about what "true" love really feels like. It's confusing, inexplicable, random, unpredictable, intense, mellow, and fully capable of disappearing just as quickly as it least for one person in the couple. It was also about deciphering what constitutes real love. Tom represented every wandering searcher of romance, capable of opening their heart but incapable of discerning who they should open it to. Meanwhile, Summer represented the multitude of people who swear off such nonsense, unaware that it could happen to them even if they don't believe.

A lot of people who've seen the film say that it was depressing and not the happy-ending rom-com they signed up for. I disagree. It was funny. It was really funny. At one point, Summer pretends she didn't overhear Tom's embarrassing conversation with his best friend about stalking her, so when she's ready to go eat lunch, she playfully says, "I'm stalking...I mean, I'm starving." Earlier in that scene, his pervy friend asks if she gave him a hand job or a blow job, and Tom quickly and nervously responds, "No jobs. I'm unemployed." After seeing Funny People, I was happy that the humor was more clever than it was crass.

Most people praise first-time director Marc Webb for muddling the timeline of their love story, starting at the end, continuing at the beginning, bouncing around from the middle to the beginning to the end, and yet still not losing the audience or sacrificing the continuity of the characters. But I think the writers, Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, deserve just as much praise, as well as the actors who brought all of it to life. Deschanel is an incredible actress, but I mean that in regards to the singular role that she often plays as the quirky indie chick with an inexplicable allure. Levitt, however, has really ran the gamut of his acting abilities and adds yet another skill to his repertoire, capable of portraying such an emotional yet masculine character.

All in all, I'd say I was glad the Oscars increased the amount of films that can be nominated for Best Picture, because films like this deserve consideration. Or maybe they should make a new category: Best Indie. It would fit right in there with Away We Go.

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