Friday, January 1, 2010

(500) Days of Summer (being a pain in the ass)

Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) wants nothing more than to find the love of his life. One day Tom meets Summer (Zooey Deschanel) and he spends 500 days trying to romantically and comically win her over. Well, that’s what I thought was going to happen. In reality, Tom and Zooey start dating immediately and the audience is witness to their off-and-on again relationship.

I really thought I’d love this movie - it looks like a JLG movie for sure. It’s one of those movies I’d consider buying without even having seen it – I was that sure. It’s promoted as an off-beat, non-chick-flicky love story. It looks original and artistic, and stars the love of my movie-watching life, Zooey. But to be honest, I didn’t really like it that much. I liked it a little bit, for a couple reasons, but otherwise it’s not what I expected.

The two things that really separate (500) Days of Summer from other romantic comedies are its visual styling and its non-linear story. It’s filmed and edited beautifully. Tom is an architect at heart and his passion for cityscapes comes out in the scenery throughout the entire movie. We see the city as Tom sees it, which is nice. There are even times when the city becomes Tom’s personal sketch, and it erases around him when he is sad. There are plenty more visual metaphors where that comes from and they are great. I especially loved seeing Tom and Summer in the French film montage.

The plot is told in a non-linear fashion. We kind of start at the end, when Summer and Tom have already ended things. Then we jump back to the beginning to see how they began. It’s similar to Pulp Fiction, only before every “chapter”, we see a number. This number is one day, out of the 500, in the couple’s relationship.

For me, this worked and it didn’t. I understand why they did it – we’re able to see little eccentricities of their relationship in before-and-after scenarios, rather than having the cute little inside jokes brought up every once in a while, and possible overlooked. It makes the little parts of their life stand out and I think we get to know them a little better. However, because they flip from the salad days to the sour days, back and forth, we see Summer as nice, and then not nice. She is such a pain in the ass during those last days, but because we keep going there, it seems like she’s a pain all the time and it made for a very negative movie. And the thing that bothered me most, is that there isn’t really any reason for her to be so mean to Tom. Other than the narrator telling us in the beginning that Summer doesn’t believe in love thanks to her parents’ divorce, we don’t have any clue as to why she’s a beeotch. And furthermore, why does Tom stay with her at all? There isn’t much chemistry between them other than a shared love for art and “indie” music.

Now, if there’s one thing I hate more than a movie-snob, it’s a music snob. But even worse are pretentious hipsters pretending to be music snobs. “I like a band you never heard of, and I wear scarves, therefore I am better than you.” This is the feeling I get with Tom. He’s a nice guy, and all, but he’s borderline snobby. That’s cool though, because he’s a character. What aggravates me is when a screenwriter creates a character like that in the hopes of making them unique and deep. It doesn’t work - they’re off-putting. I’d much rather watch a character that enjoyed what everybody likes – an everyman.

(500) Days is funny at times, but Gordon-Levitt’s character is the only funny one. He's actually a really funny and versatile actor. There are a couple characters, Tom’s friends, who were obviously written in for comic relief – but they’re really not that funny and they’re barely in the movie. This movie is more depressing and heartbreaking than funny.

Visually, (500) Days of Summer is stunning. There are great music montages and pretty clever metaphors. The soundtrack isn’t bad, but as much as I love Zooey’s singing voice, I really wish she’d sing something less Lawrence Welky. The problem with (500) Days is that it really lacks substance. In its attempt to profoundly shed light on fate-versus-coincidence, it misses the mark by not developing the relationship or the characters in it.



3 Summers

1 comment:

Geof said...

Happy New Years JLG!!

I nominated you for an award, so please check out this link to my post when you get a chance and I hope you will be interested in participating:

http://enterthemancave.blogspot.com/2010/01/award-and-nominees-to-start-off-2010.html

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