Friday, August 14, 2009

REVIEW: 500 Days Of Summer...

Oh the independent romance comedy, how I love thee.

It has seemed that since the beginning of time, the rom-com, or romantic comedy, has a formula, that if broken, the film makers will die, as no one dares to tred those lines. Boy meets girl, falls for girl, loses girl, gets girl, fin. However, when you go into the realm of indie, with films like the Before Sunrise/Sunset you get something different. Something fresh. Even a film like Definitley, Maybe has dared to break these conventions, and all for the better.

Now we have 500 Days of Summer, the newest film out of Oscar darling Fox Searchlight, and an attempt to not only break those same conventions smashed by indie hits before it, but maybe in the meantime, cuddling up next to something fresh and new, like a beautiful young lady, in this summer full of bloated whores like Transformers 2. Did it work?

All in all, hell yes.

The film starts off with this disclaimer:

This is a story of boy meets girl. But you should know up front, this is not a love story.

So what IS this film then. Well, it goes something like this. After it looks as if she's left his life for good this time, Tom Hansen reflects back on the just over one year that he knew Summer Finn. Despite being physically average in almost every respect, Summer had always attracted the attention of men, Tom included. For Tom, it was love at first sight when she walked into the greeting card company where he worked, she the new administrative assistant. Soon, Tom knew that Summer was the woman with whom he wanted to spend the rest of his life. Although Summer did not believe in relationships or boyfriends - in her assertion, real life will always ultimately get in the way - Tom and Summer became more than just friends. Through the trials and tribulations of Tom and Summer's so-called relationship, Tom could always count on the advice of his two best friends, McKenzie and Paul. However, it is Tom's adolescent sister, Rachel, who is his voice of reason. After all is said and done, Tom is the one who ultimately has to make the choice to listen or not.

When discussing any romance film, the biggest thing one needs to discuss are the two lovers in question, and when discussing 500 Days of Summer, you have one word to say. BRILLIANT.

The film stars and consists primarilly of Joeseph Gordon-Levitt as our hero Tom, and the stunning Zooey Deschanel as Summer Finn, both being in top form. The film is centered around their tumultuous relationship and I was intrigued since the very first shot. Levitt being the big winner here, and really, he may be the most honest and realistic male performance I've seen since Mickey Rourke in the Wrestler. A TOTALLY different role, but also a totally similar amount a realism. Levitt IS the everyday guy, who falls for the girl of his dreams. He's easily one of the best male performances of this year, and if a little film called Watchmen wasn't released, he would be the best (Jackie Earl Haley and Billy Crudup take THAT cake). He's just a revelation, as the film as a whole is. Zooey is just as good, but the film isn't truly about her, so we spend less time with her. She is who you expect her to be. The hot and intriguing indie chick who, instead of saying hi for a first time interaction, comments on Levitt's music taste. The film stands on these two performances, and it's two pillars strong enough to hold it.

Besides these two performances, the true star of this film may just be Marc Webb, the first time film maker behind the lens. This film would be simply a point and shoot indie dramedy, in the vein of say Peter and Vandy from earlier this year, but instead, the film is a revolution of romantic cinema. The film is in a disjointed narrative, and the idea of a disjointed narrative fits this genre so well, that it's sickening to think it really took this long to go big with it. It's a film about pieces of a life, lives, and the romance shared between these people, and it works perfectly. Each peice has some sort of visual punch, weither it be a foreign film style set piece, or an all out musical number, there are so many ideas put into effect in this film that it continually had me dumbfounded that it has never been done before (particularly an expectations/reality, split screen scene that may be the best single scene in any film all year.) The film has a very warm feel, when it needs, and something more dark when needed, all done with a touch that is coming of a seasoned cinema veteran. Oh, did I say Marc Webb was a cinematic virgin? Yeah, this is one epic cherry being popped.

Sure, the visual flare may be compelling, and the performances may be realistic, but how about the story?

When romance goes indie, something seems to ooze out of the two lovers like a good sweat. You have silly wide release films like The Proposal that simply take the romantic comedy to the same places its been, just in a different car, but then you get a film like 500 Days, that takes it to it's favorite spot, in it's dad's sports car, looking to cop a feel. And I think this film get's all the way home.

As I stated above the film features a disjointed narrative, and instead of being told where we are going by simply painting by numbers, we first see the last major scene of the film, and we go from their. We start at day 500, and hop back and fourth throughout the previous 499, leading to the final day of Summer. First dates, first kisses, first everythings are seen, as well as the harsh moments, that every couple goes through. This is not only a sweet and heartfelt comedy, but it's also a raw and very emotionally moving look into what is the modern relationship.

Oh, and me being a music nut, this soundtrack may be one of the best not only of this year, but of all time. The film features TWO great tracks (Us and Hero) from Regina Spektor, Feist, and one of my personal faves, There Is A Light That Will Never Go Out by The Smiths, and is not only great on its own, but instead of coming from a film that is basically an iPod playlist looking for a story (I'm looking at you Garden State and Juno), it plays heavily into the story. This is just really a perfect film. No lagging, no bad script, no bad performances, just near perfection (near because honestly, Zooey's character was a TAD annoying near the end, and her turn is TOTALLY unexplained). Only big problem, is that it ended.

500 DAYS OF SUMMER - 9.5/10 (This is probably the second best film of the year, it would be first if it weren't for a little film called District 9, which I will be reviewing for you all on Sunday. GI Joe will be up tomorrow)

Go see something good!

1 comment:

  1. Josh, I must say, I'm very pleased with this review. I can whole heartedly agree. I'm not a huge movie-goer, and I don't know tons about them but I really appreciate them a bunch. I saw this just after it came out and loved it. I occasionally read your reviews when I've got some spare time and as soon as I got home, I jumped onto your blog to see if you'd reviewed it, as I know you've got very strong and particular opinions when it comes to movies, but I had a feeling you'd review this well.

    And as for the comment on the sound track.... also par! After the 2nd song had played I whispered to my brother, "This has an amazing soundtrack". I downloaded the soundtrack as soon as I returned home.

    I've yet to see sector 9, so I will. But Yeah. I'm excited for how your reviewed this film, and my compliments to your writing. It's definitely got a nice style. Keep it up!

    also, do you have a press pass or something, how can you afford to watch so many films?


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