Before I start discussing this film, I must tell you that this is in no way an unbiased review. I begged to see this film before it came out. I have loved Joseph Gordon-Levitt since I was five and, also, I kind of want to be Zooey Daschanel. I went to this film expecting greatness. As a buffer to this optimism, I brought along my big brother, who thinks Zooey Daschanel is funny looking. Here’s what we both thought.
If you’ve seen the trailer then you know the premise, boy meets girl, boy falls in love, girl doesn’t. It’s that simple, only it’s not. (500) Days of Summer is a breath of fresh air in a world over-run with run of the mill romantic comedies. There is no gross out humour, no boobs, and no overweight man children. What is there is a refreshingly real, intimate and surprisingly innocent film about the courage it takes to fall in love. And that’s not to say that it isn’t funny, it is, it’s hilarious, but the humour comes from a relatable, identifiable place rather than a squirrel attack in the woods or someone stepping in dog poo.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Mysterious Skin) plays Tom, a boy who still believes in the notion of all or nothing, lightning-strikes-once love. He’s like John Cusack in Say Anything for the iPod generation. The writers, Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, say the film is semi-autobiographical, that they are representing themselves through Tom. Although undoubtedly biased, this could be why he is probably one of the most ideal men ever written. I warn you ladies, you will fall in love with him, but you shouldn’t, because he’s mine.
Zooey Daschanel (Yes Man) plays Summer, the beautiful, super cool and quirky girl of Tom’s dreams. You can see why he loves her, she’s easy to love, but there’s also a darkness there which is revealed as the film goes on. She’s not as perfect as she seems at first, which is the problem with love at first sight, by the time you realize, it’s already too late.
The story is told in a fragmented, non-linear structure, winding back and forth through Tom and Summer’s on-again, off-again romance, or, as the writers call it, “a romantic comedy meets Memento.” You look through memories as Tom remembers them, sometimes seeing the same moment more than once, each time with an entirely different meaning. It doesn’t pretend to be an objective point of view, it is Tom’s memory, reflecting his experience of love. And yet, unlike so many male protagonist romantic comedies of late, the women are not seen as nagging, bitchy kill-joys who want to settle down and stop the men from having fun. These men love women, possibly more than they deserve to be loved.
Credit should be given to first time feature director Marc Webb, whose direction is sure and precise, whilst seamlessly allowing for split screens, dance sequences, omniscient narrators and a cartoon bird. He knows he’s got something special and isn’t afraid to let it loose. These stylized elements, rather than detracting from the realism, somehow accurately convey just what it feels like to be in love. It’s not ironic, it’s honest. Under the humour and whimsy of (500) Days of Summer, there’s a fundamental truth at play: Yes, love can be cruel, harsh and difficult but it’s also, by far, the best thing life has to offer.