Director: Marc Webb
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel
One of the pleasures of “500 Days of Summer” is found within the first couple of minutes of running time when the film declares: “this is not a romantic story”. By stating this, the director, Marc Webb, makes us perfectly aware of the ending, challenging us to appreciate the path the characters follow even when we know, to a certain extent, how it will all turn out for them.
Within the typical boy-meets-girl frame, the film moves forward in an unconventional manner. What we have come to expect from a romantic comedy, the movie tries to do without (not always), especially refraining from using those elements that seem to always detract from the overall success of films of this type.
“500 Days of Summer” feels genuine. There are no grand gestures of love or the common obstacles that always seem to temporarily get in the way of the leading couple’s happiness. Instead, the film presents a romantic tale where the problem does not become apparent until the very end and, when it does, it is far more simple and possibly more devastating than any other issue could be.
Another refreshing aspect of “500 Days of Summer” is the non-linear way in which the story is told, starting somewhere close to the end before going back to the beginning. The film is structured by days, recounting what happened to the relationship at certain moments, always going back and forth, between the initial days and those closer to the end, with the gap getting ever smaller as the film progresses.
This mode of presentation brings in some comedy through comparison, showing the evident changes that the relationship has experienced.
Central to the success of the film’s delivery lies in the versatile and talented Joseph Gordon-Levitt who plays Tom, the heartbroken aspiring architect who is “stuck” in a cubicle writing Hallmark-type cards. The young actor effectively plays a range of emotions with a comedic undertone that manages to bring more than a fair share of laughs.
His love interest, aptly named “Summer” is played by the lovely, albeit less compelling, Zooey Deschanel. Tom is clearly fascinated by Summer, who does not seem to be as interested from the get-go. She, unlike Tom, is not looking for a serious relationship, a fact she makes clear early on, but that Tom seems to forget about as he sulks over her, oblivious to all the small indications that showed the relationship was not meant to last.
As in other romantic comedies, our lead is flanked by sidekicks that are used as little more than caricaturesque comedy props that are very different to Tom, but that also serve the purpose of giving greater insight about our lead’s personality. In contrast, Summer’s personal life remains a mystery, not only to us, but also to Tom. There is no mention of friends, or life goals, or hobbies, all we know is that she seems to be a free-spirit who values fun and independence over stability and love.
The film’s greatest success lies in the way it touches us. We can’t help but root for Tom, even if all of his choices throughout the movie are questionable. Unlike all of us, Tom is unable to see beyond his nose, disregarding his friends warnings and Summer’s intentions. Even then, Tom cannot be blamed because love has made him hopelessly blind.
Rating: 4 out of 5 – very entertaining and charming film. Great performance by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, not so much by Zooey Deschanel who is a bit of a miscast.