Guest Post: “I’m the hero of this story. I don’t need to be saved.”
The other night I got the chance to see (500) Days of Summer, starring Jospeh Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel, with Lily. I didn’t really know anything about the movie before I watched it–I just wanted to see it because of how amazing Levitt’s acting was in Brick. He didn’t disappoint me in this outing.
(5oo) Days of Summer can be summed up as Juno meets Annie Hall. The film’s plot concerns an employee for a greeting card company (Tom) who can’t escape his previous relationship with a girl named Summer, played by the talented Zooey Deschanel. Bits and pieces of their relationship are presented to the film viewer–out of sequence–as Tom tries to discover why everything fell apart, what he can do to get Summer back, and if love actually exists. I know. It sounds bland, but this one has several elements that push it far beyond the run-of-mill.
First, the acting is simply incredible. As I said before, Levitt wowed me with his spot-on Sam Spade impersonation in Rian Johnson’s homage to noir films: Brick. In (500) Days however, Levitt sheds his hard boiled detective act and trades it in for the sensitivity and bitterness of Holden Caufield. The sensitive male role is a performance that’s often exaggerated to the point where the audience often finds themselves annoyed–and even hating–the character. Levitt’s Tom never losses his sympathetic appeal even when his obsession verges on obnoxious behavior in the latter part of the film.
Zooey Deschannel is incredible as a thinly veiled Annie Hall clone–Summer. She’s the product of a broken home, independent, blunt with her sexuality and incredibly beautiful. This could have been such a simple role to botch. Nothing that Summer says is particularly witty or catchy, but Deschannel (just as Diane Keaton with Annie Hall) manages to make her such an intriguing character through her physical presence . Summer is not only a character that must be watched, but one that must also be read. She must be read through her facial expressions, how she moves her body, and–especially–how she looks at Tom when she’s speaking to him or he is speaking to her.
The actors aren’t the only ones who should be praised. Marc Webb does quite an impressive job with his directorial debut–probably the best since Zach Braff’s Garden State. This story could have easily fallen to pieces in the hand of even a seasoned director but Webb rises to the challenge with the talent of virtuoso. The cinematography is never over-the-top or artsty just for the sake of being artsy. Every shot, every angle, and every neat little trick that Webb employs has its purpose. Hopefully, this film marks the beginning of a young and talented auteur’s superb career.
I feel that it would be wrong not to mention the soundtrack. After all, Tom’s attraction to Summer blossoms when she displays her knowledge of the Smith’s catalog. The experience simply would not be nearly as enthralling without the music. Every song serves its accompanying scene splendidly and helps the viewer connect with the two leads. I would say that it’s even better than the Juno and Garden State soundtracks simply because those soundtrack are more like stellar mix CDs than anything else–there is no theme or running emotion connecting the songs together. (500) Days is a different story. You can almost decipher the story just from listening to the soundtrack. The beginning tracks that deal with the yearning for a crush and the utter joy of ending up with that crush, the middle section of the CD that encompasses the fading of the joy and the eventual disintegration of the relationship, and the final portion of the soundtrack that deals with recovery from and acceptance of the lost relationship. Ultimately, it’s an emotion provoking selection of music that’s as vital to the movie as the acting and the directing.
I would argue that (500) Days of Summer is destined to become a modern classic film, ranking along side Milk, There Will Be Blood, Garden State, Children of Men, American Psycho, and Little Miss Sunshine. Why? It’s not because it’s a particularly quotable film or that it’s an innovative movie with some neat camera tricks. Instead, I think it will because it has a soul. It’s a movie that takes a snapshot of love in the modern world and bravely presents it without removing any of the blemishes.
Written for my blog
This post was submitted by Javy Gwaltney.