Monday, January 19, 2009

500 Days of Summer

2009 Sundance Film Festival ★ ★ ★ ★
What a delightful film. From the opening screen, which offers a very funny disclaimer, it is clear that 500 Days of Summer dares to be different. And as the opening sequence clearly states, it is not a love story. Except that’s only a technicality. It really is. Sort of.

Writers Scott Neustadter and Michael Webber, along with director Marc Webber, have put together a charming, fresh and very funny romantic comedy. Summer (Zooey Deschanel) and Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) start an office romance when Summer comes to LA from Michigan for an internship at a greeting card company. Tom writes cards, although he quietly aspires to be an architect. Tom is a romantic idealist who has never found his soul mate. Summer is a disillusioned pragmatist who doesn’t believe in love. But Summer immediately takes to Tom, Tom is smitten with Summer and their relationship proceeds as so many do in the movies.

Deschanel and Gordon-Levitt play their roles well, although it occurred to me more than once that they lacked chemistry. But remember, this is not a love story, which is what makes 500 Days of Summer more realistic and poignant than what we have come to expect from the movies. But it is a refreshing and thought-provoking take on what we often describe as being in love—about taking risks, dealing with disappointments, finding yourself and bumping into fate when you least expect it.

The film includes a couple of moviemaking devices that some might find distracting. It uses a timeline to tell the story, but jumps forward and back, which still manages to effectively provide a narrative without feeling like a contrivance. In contrast, the film also pays homage to a number of classic movies, including several clips and snippets, which feels out of place and doesn’t quite fit.

As currently constructed, 500 Days of Summer will get an R rating. If they can edit it to a PG-13, which would be quite easily done, it could do nicely at the box office.

Notes from Sundance: At opening night at the Eccles Center, Deschanel commented on how attracted she was to the script. Director Marc Webber made the point that he wanted to shoot on location in LA, but show a bit of the city’s architectural heritage, which did very subtly separate 500 Days from typical Hollywood-Indie fare.


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