A culture blog, mostly focused on film and television. Warning: spoilers!!!
Film Review: 500 Days of Summer (2009)
May 12, 2017
Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel star in the instant-classic, indie rom-com 500 Days of Summer. Tom Hansen (Gordon-Levitt) is a young, handsome, and romantic greeting card writer who falls head over heels for Summer (Deschanel), a level-headed office assistant who doesn’t quite share in his belief in true love. Although the two of them gravitate towards each other and share a mutual attraction (and love of The Smiths), Summer’s lack of commitment tests Tom’s understanding of love and relationships.
A wonderfully realistic portrayal of a hopeless romantic and a commitment-phobe, viewers can relate to both Tom and Summer as the lovers navigate the tricky waters of a modern relationship. Gordon-Levitt and Deschanel are beyond cute together and their performances bring their ineffably mismatched but charming characters to life. Re-watching years after its release, I was also reminded of the surprisingly solid supporting cast, including Matthew Gray Gubler and Geoffrey Arend as two of Tom’s friends, Chloë Grace Moretz as Tom’s mature-beyond-her-years half-sister, and Clark Gregg as Tom and Summer’s boss. There’s even a small cameo by Yvette Nicole Brown (#community #sixseasonsandamovie)!
Among other small touches and unexpected treats are the talking heads of characters, from the serial monogamists to the lonely and desperate, discussing their thoughts on love and Tom’s black-and-white, French New Wave-inspired depression. Whimsical and fanciful or serious and difficult moments also find themselves scored perfectly, whether with music by Hall and Oates, The Temper Trap, or Regina Spektor. Of course, the non-linear storytelling, aided by title cards to announce which of the five hundred days of Tom and Summer’s relationship the film is jumping to, is a delightful motif and editing trick. Occasionally, the film also plays with split screens, film stocks, and aspect ratios in order to show different times, places, and even realities. Director Marc Webb revels in all sorts of visual quirks but, thankfully, never loses sight of the characters or the emotional truth of the story.
One last strength of 500 Days of Summer is the subversion of the manic-pixie dream girl trope that unfairly haunts rom-coms and the doe-eyed Deschanel especially. Summer has her eccentricities (Ringo Starr is her favourite Beatle after all) but she is far more grounded than Tom and has aspirations about love, work, and the future that frustrate more than they charm him. If anything, Tom is the manic-pixie dream boy, with his creative-driven career, his unmoored, romantic dreamer attitude, and really cute vintage clothes. Summer’s independence, missteps, and rejection of Tom’s projections of romance and completeness onto her makes her a stronger, more interesting personality and their relationship more realistically challenging and appealing.