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5 reviews, 16 user ratings

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(500) Days of Summer
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?"
4 stars

It has been suggested by some people over the years--friends, colleagues and clergy among them--that have a dangerously low tolerance for films dealing with the personal problems of upper-middle-class (and beyond) white people. I have attempted to refute this claim from time to time but when I have looked back from time to time to disprove this theory, I have to slowly admit to myself that there may be something to it after all--from the generally annoying works of John Hughes to the stultifying likes of “Revolutionary Road” to approximately 73% of the offerings at Sundance in every given year, such films have a tendency to make me metaphorically itch and when one comes along that I do happen to like (such as the brilliant “Little Children”), it is rare enough of an occasion to underscore how truly weak most such films of this type are. However, such exceptions do come along from time to time and when they do, I am perfectly willing to succumb to whatever charms they may possess. One such film is the new romantic comedy “(500) Days of Summer” and while it looks and sounds like the kind of thing that would normally drive me up the wall, I was surprised to find myself actually responding to its oddball charms instead.

As the film opens, a narrator solemnly intones, “This is a story of boy meets girl, but it isn’t a love story” and based on what unfolds from that point, you would be hard-pressed to disagree with him. The boy is Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a romantic dreamer who years to one day be an architect but who is currently stuck in a dead-end job designing the kind of cruddy greeting cards that are the only ones that you can find when you absolutely have to buy one that very moment. The girl is Summer (Zooey Deschanel), the new office babe who proclaims to virtually everyone she meets that she doesn’t believe in love and refuses to be tied down by something as mundane as a relationship. When we first see them, they are breaking up in a restaurant--actually, she is dong the breaking up, citing a dream she had in which she has seen the two of them as Sid & Nancy (with her as Sid, naturally)--and Tom is naturally devastated, especially when Summer insists that they can still be friends. From that point, the film uses Tom’s perspective to take a fractured look at their entire relationship (past, present and future) in which the good times (bonding over a shared love of The Smiths and screwing around in Ikea on a lazy weekend afternoon) alternate with the not-so-good in ways that force him to reexamine what he actually had with her in the first place before he can hope to move on.

None of this is especially original--even the fractured narrative structure that occasionally dovetails into outright fantasy (such as a musical number set to the strains of Hall & Oates) is pretty much lifted wholesale from “Annie Hall”--but what “(500) Days of Summer” may lack in originality, it makes up for with its relatively infectious charm and energy. The screenplay from Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber contains a lot of spiky dialogue and plenty of nifty individual scenes--my two favorites are a hilarious bit in which a despondent Tom sees his life as an exceptionally grim foreign film and a heartbreaking one in which we witness a post-breakup reunion with Summer in split-screen with his grand expectations running side-by-side with grim reality--that help it to transcend its essential familiarity. Debuting director Marc Webb also does a good job of keeping things humming along without ever letting the offbeat structure and attitude overwhelm the proceedings--it is to his credit that after a couple of initial hiccups, you don’t even really notice the fractured narrative approach after a while. Coming from the world of music video, Webb also has a keen ear for music and as a result, the soundtrack--featuring cuts from the likes of Regina Spektor, Feist, Carla Bruni and She & Him (the duo that Deschanel is part of when not working at her day job)--is a hipster’s dream that many audience members are going to want to either purchase or download the minute that they get out of the theater.

The thing that really makes “(500) Days of Summer” shine, even when the quirkiness threatens to become too much to bear, is the charming on-screen pairing of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel. Separately, they have become two of the more interesting young actors working today--the former turned in amazing performances in such films as “Mysterious Skin” and “Brick” while the latter has brightened up things as varied (both in subject matter and quality) as “Almost Famous,” “All the Real Girls,” “Elf” and “Yes Man” over the last few years--and they play off of each other beautifully here as well and create a genuinely recognizable version of a modern couple. More importantly, they aren’t afraid to depict the less attractive sides of their characters as well--Deschanel is especially good here at playing the kind of person that we can’t help but be enchanted by even when her flighty and self-absorbed behavior makes us want to force her to eat her own hair at gunpoint. Even when the rest of the film eventually fades into autumn, their work stays in the mind with all of the force of an especially vivid summer romance.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=18196&reviewer=389
originally posted: 07/17/09 00:14:14
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2009 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2009 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 CineVegas Film Festival For more in the 2009 CineVegas Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 RiverRun International Film Festival For more in the 2009 RiverRun International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: Independent Film Festival of Boston 2009 For more in the Independent Film Festival Boston 2009 series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Philadelphia Film Festival For more in the 2009 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Florida Film Festival For more in the 2009 Florida Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Seattle International Film Festival For more in the 2009 Seattle International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

11/04/15 David Hollingsworth Clever and refreshing. 5 stars
3/09/11 art CHLOE MORETZ moved on to BIGGER and better thing's[KICK ASS,LET ME IN}. 1 stars
9/12/10 Simon Really innovative take on it's-been-done love stories. Contrived but contrived appealingly 4 stars
6/11/10 MP Bartley Not as clever as it thinks it is, but clever nonetheless. 4 stars
5/06/10 Ionicera Somewhat clever and likeable but not very deep 4 stars
3/02/10 Stanley Thai A unique romantic comedy told in an ingenious and creative way. 5 stars
2/27/10 Brian Mckay Funny and creative "Boy meets/loses girl" story. Levitt and Deschanel are great together. 4 stars
12/13/09 Flounder Extremely original screenplay and fantastic performances around. Deserves an Oscar nom 5 stars
12/04/09 matt It was good, but I probably wouldn't watch it again 4 stars
11/27/09 -Loved Nice. perfectly enjoyable, plus I loved Zooey no end 4 stars
9/25/09 Akemi Gardiner The movie had a very realistic take on relationships. Loved it! 5 stars
9/11/09 BTC It deserves the hype, and should win an oscar for best original screenplay! 5 stars
8/30/09 Omar I'm not a big fan of romantic films, but this is excellent. 5 stars
7/23/09 sleestakk was expecting something more conventional; was pleased it was rather not. nice review! 5 stars
7/17/09 Rio It had the potential to be Another Stupid Hipster Movie, but it wasn't. Beauty. 5 stars
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  17-Jul-2009 (PG-13)
  DVD: 22-Dec-2009


  DVD: 22-Dec-2009

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