Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Movie Review: (500) Days of Summer

Rated: PG-13

Website: Official (500) Days of Summer site

Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel

My Review: I’m admittedly a bit late to the party, but I finally go around to seeing (500) Days of Summer, after listening to an abundance of recommendations from both actual people and a variety of publications. And while I did enjoy a great deal, like most hyped movies, it failed to meet the expectations that had been built for it. I went in expecting some mind-blowing theatrical experience—the Godfather of relationship movies—and wound up seeing a touching and heartbreakingly realistic story about a love that doesn’t work out. Which is all the movie ever set out to be in the first place.

I’ve heard (500) Days of Summer being compared to everything from Annie Hall to Juno crossed with Memento. They’re apt comparisons, but the movie’s premise is really pretty basic: Love-skeptic Summer breaks up with the lovelorn Tom, who then goes back into his memory to dissect their relationship, from when they first met, to when everything was going good, to when things started to go wrong. Just like anyone who has gone down “where did we go wrong?” memory lane, his recollections jump around in time, so it’s up to you to put their days together into a linear order. And once you do, you get a sweetly sad love story about two people who know what they’re looking for in a relationship, but unfortunately aren’t looking for the same thing.

The main reasons the movie works so well are the performances of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel, and the natural chemistry they have together. They both come across as nice, normal people, as opposed to overly-glamorized Hollywood stars. Gordon-Levitt perfectly captures Tom’s down-to-earth everyman quality as a guy who works at a job he doesn’t really like (and is in no way related to what he went to college for) and finds himself falling for his coworker, despite the fact she tells him that she doesn’t want to be anybody’s girlfriend. Deschanel is adorable and quirky without being cloying, which is no easy feat. She lets both Tom and the audience know upfront that she’s unattainable, but that doesn’t stop her from developing feelings for him or us from hoping they’ll find a way to make it work.

There are a few nagging unanswered questions at the close of the movie, but I suppose that’s to be expected in a story about a break up (are all questions ever answered at the end of a relationship?). And there are a few plot devices I could have done without—primarily Tom’s wise-beyond-her-years pre-teen sister who acts as his therapist/relationship guru. But overall, (500) Days of Summer is a very well-crafted movie that stars two easily likable actors (and one killer wardrobe for Deschanel). And if I took away one thing it’s this: I’ve had way too many Summers in my life and I really need to start working on finding an Autumn.

Bottom Line: Will (500) Days of Summer live up to all the hype you’ve heard about it? Probably not. Will you enjoy it anyway? Signs point to “yes.”


  1. I followed you here from Rotten Tomatoes. Nice work. I'll be reading more.

  2. Thanks, Joel. I like the look of your site, too, especially the blend of old and new films. If you have any tips on getting access to more advanced screenings, please share the secret!