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Review: (500) Days of Summer (2009)

(500) Days of Summer (2009)

Directed by: Marc Webb

Premise: A young man (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) recounts his ill fated but intense romance with a spunky, independent woman (Zooey Deschanel) who doesn’t believe in love.

What Works: (500) Days of Summer is a terrific film. Technically, the film is a romantic comedy but it openly defies the conventions of the genre and is an antidote to the formulaic crap that has been filling up screens recently. The picture puts to question the underlying assumptions of love stories; that people will just naturally fall in love, that everyone shares the same ideal of what romantic love is, that a couple’s feelings for each other will never change, and that earnest feeling by one person is enough to sustain a relationship. (500) Days of Summer punches holes through these preconceptions, exposing them and revealing how fraudulent they are. In the process, the film gets down to the real messiness of love that so many romantic comedies ignore and in that the film reveals things that are much more honest and true. The story is put together extremely well, cutting back and forth on the time line but never losing its place and effectively communicating with the audience exactly where they are. (500) Days of Summer has a pair of terrific performances by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel. Gordon-Levitt gets an opportunity that few male actors ever do: he is allowed to expose the secret, vulnerable side of men and show how stress over love can turn them pathetic and even ugly, but he does it without emasculating the character. Likewise, Deschanel plays the opposite of the typical leading lady in a romance and her coldness and sadness goes beyond chauvinistic stereotypes of the woman who needs a man and the resolution of her story nicely complements the chaotic nature of love as it is presented in the film.

What Doesn’t: (500) Days of Summer is very stylized and few scenes, namely a protracted dance number, go on a bit long or carry the style a few steps too far.

Bottom Line: (500) Days of Summer is an excellent bit of romance that will likely be enjoyed by viewers of either sex because, rather than recapitulating clichés or pandering to the audience’s fantasies, the film is honest about love and relationships and reveals some truths, even the sad ones. 

Episode: #251 (August 16, 2009)