The Best Movie of 2009 (so far)
We all get into relationships for different reasons. Sometimes – most of the time, I’m hoping – we get in because we honestly believe that this person may be The One. On other occasions, we’re just doing it to pass the time until something better comes along. And other times, what starts out as “just friends” deepens into something special.
Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a romantic. He believes that true love is inevitable, something that finds you, something you know the moment you set eyes on your soulmate. He has been through the wars of love and has had his ass kicked. He’s something of a settler in most respects; trained as an architect, he has found work as a writer for a greeting card company. However, the one thing he won’t settle for is the love of his life. That is an absolute for him.
Summer (Zooey Deschanel) is a beautiful woman who has turned heads ever since she was old enough to know how. She’s had her share of lovers, but watched her parents endure an ugly, bitter divorce. It was bad enough that she has erected emotional walls the Chinese would envy. She’s looking for like, not love – for her, true love is a myth, much like Santa Claus.
She’s impulsive enough to move from Michigan to Los Angeles because she’s bored. She gets a job at the same greeting card company that Tom works for, and the two connect almost instantly. They both like the Smiths, for one. They both have a quirky sense of humor, and they both are intelligent, hip people. Tom’s closest friends – MacKenzie (Geoffrey Arend) and Paul (Matthew Gray Gubler) are wary for Tom. He’s lost his heart on more than one occasion, but this time is different. Even Tom’s sister Rachel (Chloe Moretz), whom Tom most often turns to for romantic advice (what the hell, she’s twelve, she knows plenty more about the subject than he does) can see it.
The two seem well-suited for each other. Tom is completely smitten, but Summer has a bit of a reserve that Tom is okay with for the time being. After all, it looks like she’s beginning to let him in. Then, with a suddenness that sets his head to spinning in all sorts of directions, she dumps him. He’s left to review the various points of the 500 days he spent with summer (aha! Clever title…) and try to figure out where things went wrong – and what is really important to him.
Director Marc Webb, who has mostly worked in the music video field, takes a very intelligently-written script (by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber) that is somewhat difficult to film because of the constant bouncing forward and back in time frames and manages to weave it into a cohesive whole. From the opening graphics, the viewer becomes totally aware that he/she has lucked into something special. The humor is laugh-out-loud funny, and universal to nearly everybody.
It is also unique among comedies. Now, while I have nothing against Judd Apatow and modern comedies like Superbad, Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Knocked Up, there’s beginning to be a certain sameness about them. As anti-formulaic as they were, they’ve become so imitated that they’ve become their own formula. (500) Days of Summer is completely different. It has some of the cutting edge elements of those movies, but has cut out the raunch, and added a double dose of intelligence. This is as well-written a romantic comedy as you are likely to find, although in a very real sense this isn’t strictly a romantic comedy – more like an anti-romantic comedy. They do warn you with voiceover narration in the movie’s opening moments that this is not a love story, and the filmmakers stay true to their word.
Part of the movie’s success revolves around the likability of the leads. Both Deschanel (The Good Girl) and Gordon-Levitt (Brick) have plenty of indie cred to begin with, but are also are moving rapidly to the A-list, which they may very well take a huge leap towards after this movie comes out. They have some support – “Criminal Minds” uber-nerd Gubler as Tom’s stable friend, Arend as his manic friend and Rachel Boston as a semi-sympathetic ear on a blind date for Tom after the break-up.
While there is a scintillating indie soundtrack, don’t make the mistake of lumping this with all the indie movies that populate the art houses year after year. Things come out of left field, center field – Hell, out of the bleachers from time to time – enough to keep even the sharpest and most savvy moviegoer on their toes. The humor is biting and sometimes takes shots at indie sacred cows (like a montage of foreign film spoofs during Tom’s dream sequence). How refreshing for a film with this kind of background to not take itself so damn seriously, as indie films are wont to do.
In the end, the movie is about expectations versus reality. We tend to see things the way we want to see them, particularly when it comes to love and relationships. We may love someone so much that it hurts, but love has to be a two-way street, otherwise it’s just obsession. When you run into a movie that is so well-written and that understands what love truly is without the rose-colored glasses and treacle Hollywood is well-known for, you find yourself feeling like you’ve just met someone that you know is going to be your good friend for the rest of your life. It’s the kind of movie that alternates between hysterical and insightful and does just enough of both to keep you off-balance.
(500) Days of Summer is the kind of movie you’ll be quoting to friends and have in the forefront of your mind for a long, long while after the lights come up. It’s an early candidate for the best movie of 2009 for my money – you’ll definitely want to seek this out when it goes out on limited release in July.
This post was submitted by Carlos deVillalvilla.