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    (500) Days of Summer

    Glorious 'Summer'

    "(500) Days of Summer" beautifully captures something about love lost — the way memories of euphoria and despair pile together when it's over.


    We are told from the beginning that "(500) Days of Summer" is "not a love story," but that's wrong. It is a love story that has a beginning, a middle and an end. We just aren't so used to love stories that end.

    (500) DAYS OF SUMMER
    Directed by: Marc Webb.
    Written by: Scott Newstadter, Michael H. Weber.
    Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel, Geoffrey Arend, Chloe Moretz, Matthew Gray Gubler, Clark Gregg, Patricia Belcher, Rachel Boston, Minka Kelly.
    Cinematography: Eric Steelberg.
    Edited by: Alan Edward Bell.

    Related links: Official site
    I'm not giving away a secret here. The end of the affair coexists with the beginning of it, as we shuffle through the 500 days in haphazard order — happy days, sad days, tenderness, irritation, intoxication, depression. And that's an interesting thing to do, for this reason — something that happens on Day 20 starts to look different when you know what happens on Day 200. A cute little just-between-us joke that made the lovebirds smile in the rush of discovery becomes clumsy and pathetic when the magic is gone. That's what this movie is about — not just love, but the life and tragic death of love.

    Playing the less-than-happy couple are two familiar faces from movies I love: Joseph Gordon-Levitt of "Brick" and Zooey Deschanel of "All the Real Girls." (The two even played together in 2003's "Manic," a movie of some intensity if not exactly charm.)

    (500) Days of Summer  
    Gordon-Levitt seems very slight at times as Tom — clad in constricting suits that seem to cinch him tight like a bundle of sticks — but other times he seems to have some charisma after all, a little streak of Bogart or Belmondo. Deschanel — well, I've been worried about her. She's an actress who started out, let's say, "interesting" in movies like "Almost Famous," "The Good Girl" and "All the Real Girls." But "interesting" soon became "quirky" and "quirky" became "zany" and "zany" has started to become "stupid." "We need a schizo airhead stoner girl — I'm thinking Zooey Deschanel!" (See the otherwise excellent "Weeds" for an example.) This film gives them both a chance to do something really excellent with their talents.

      (500) Days of Summer
    Their characters could also use such a chance. Tom and Summer are, for now, 20-something nothings. Tom is a smart architecture grad who found a job writing greeting cards instead. Summer is a new assistant in the company with a gift for brightening a room or a day. Whatever they are supposed to be doing with their lives, they aren't doing it yet. We kind of want to care about them, their potential, their happiness, but the world definitely does not. So it's a story about that time in life.

    Tom, already jaded with his work, is infatuated with his workmate. Summer is a free spirit who's not into the idea of relationships or love itself. (Which is a good thing for us, the audience, in a way. If it were the other way around, a young woman smitten by a man who's not into settling down, that wouldn't have been much of a movie, would it?)

    "Relationships are messy and people's feelings get hurt. Who needs it?" she says over beers with the co-workers. "Might as well have fun while we can and save the serious stuff for later."

    (500) Days of Summer  
    "Holy shit!" their buddy realizes. "You're a dude!"

    There is a certain amount of inspired repartée and occasionally a profound observation in "(500) Days of Summer" — but it isn't really a movie built on brilliant dialogue. It is a story told with editing. Scarcely does the film miss a chance to follow a scene with another that amplifies or undercuts it, often cut right up against each other. Intimate in-jokes, during the time when every little thing you do is new and funny, next to tiresome attempts at humor, during the time when why are you still here. It's the bang-bang-bang of images and emotions and contradictions that makes it both funny and true.

    The film is a deliberate jumble, but it probably imitates the fragmentary way you think about your own failed romance after it's over, every memory colliding with every other. It's a collage of curiosity, infatuation, euphoria (via a big, over-the-top musical number that's a work of genius), disappointment, contempt, self-hatred and self-invention that are part of real life. The film spends little time telling you in florid words what love, or a love affair, is, but it gets you to feel something, something unconscious and indistinct but genuine. It has a sparkle. If this movie were your co-worker, you would probably be infatuated with it from across the room.

    OCTOBER 30, 2009

    Reader comments on (500) Days of Summer:

  • heterocentricity   from Iain, Dec 25, 2010

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