|The whole movie is like this.|
Expectations, as we all know, have a tendency to be significantly different than reality. So I need to be careful what I say, because about this movie, I might have a tendency to set up the expectations of you, dear reader, to unrealistic heights. (500) Days of Summer is one of the best-made, most entertaining movies I’ve seen in my entire life (and I’m not just saying that because I’m obsessed with Zooey Deschanel (no, really)). Not only was it an excellent movie, but it was that rare exotic artifact quickly disappearing from movie-making: an original, hard-to-define movie. (500) Days of Summer just never does exactly meet expectations, no matter what you’re expecting.
The movie even starts originally and confusingly with a credit sequence of home videos of what are apparently the two main characters, in what appears to be a romantic comedy. But as the narrator immediately tells you, this is not a love story. As the movie starts, and the relationship between main characters Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel (!!!)) is established, you are skeptical. Not a love story? Sure looks like it, especially with the excellent chemistry and performances by both (extremely attractive) actors.
But (500) Days of Summer is never that simple. The movie’s creative use of film, including home videos at the beginning, an extremely odd dream sequence, and what is apparently video interviews with some of the characters, show that this is quite a complicated movie. The chronology of the movie shows this as well; instead of simply progressing linearly, the film skips around through the 500 days of Tom and Summer’s courtship, requiring you to not only keep track of where in the timeline you are at a given time, but also understand the significance of the comparisons for yourself.
And there are quite a few parallels drawn, and the movie always seems to be deeper than face value. The narrator tells you at the start that this is not a love story, but it is a story about love. While at times the movie seems to be a realistic description or debunking of “true love,” even to the point of being depressing, it is also at times romantic, and nearly always extremely amusing. The plot is so delightfully convoluted and engaging that you don’t realize how extremely insightful it is until later. One of Tom’s friends admits that while his dream girl would be different than his girlfriend, his real girlfriend is better . . . because she’s real. (500) Days of Summer pulls off a remarkable feat: teaching you something about love without sounding preachy, or indeed without you even realizing it.
But the delightful plot never once manages to drown out the characters of Tom and Summer, both played magnificently by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel. These two, one a hopeless romantic, the other a pronounced skeptic of love, are set up as perfect foils of one another, and the sparks fly. Their relationship is perfectly done, realistic, down-to-earth, but beautiful and romantic as well. Not only that, but these two never cease to be entertaining to watch. Joseph Gordon-Levitt can only be described as “cute” in this movie, and his hopeless romanticism makes you root for him, even though the film is parodying him, shown most obviously during a scene where an entire street breaks out into joyous dance, complete with an animated bird, to show his happiness. But the film also criticizes Summer’s approach, even though one can’t help but love Zooey Deschanel, and Summer herself even eventually tells Tom that he was right, in the end.
In (500) Days of Summer, there is an entire scene that is shown split in half. On one side of the screen is one version of the scene, labeled “Expectations.” And on the other, of course, is “Reality.” (500) Days of Summer, as in that scene, continuously defies expectations and pushes you back into reality. But it’s reality the way love truly is, happy and sad and beautiful and horrible all at once. Another of Tom’s friends is asked what he thinks love is, and his words sum up everything the movie is: “Love? S***, I don’t know!”
Overall Grade: Like
Death and Glory,