I have mentioned before that the romantic comedies generally aren't my cup of tea. If those aren't, you know the ones that are straight up love stories have even less of a chance. However, I will sometimes let one or two of the well-reviewed ones in just to see what I think of them. "(500) Days of Summer" lucked up to be one of those. It certainly didn't hurt that it starred Zooey Deschanel.
Tom(Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is an aspiring architect who had to settle for a job as a greeting card writer. He encounters his boss's new secretary, Summer (Deschanel), and discovers that the two have plenty in common even though she is out of his league. Before long, Tom has fallen for Summer. Even though she doesn't believe in love. It doesn't phase Tom and he doggedly pursues Summer to convince her that their relationship is the real thing.
Director Mark Webb utilized a concept that I have always loved: the non-linear approach. I don't know if Quentin Tarantino invented the style, but he certainly made it popular. His usage of it always worked because his films contain segments that can be freestanding on their own anyway. The reason it works here is something entirely different.
The movie is basically Tom reflecting on his relationship with Summer. When you think about it, that is exactly how we recall our past relationships. Random thoughts come to mind about the time you spent with that individual. It's never linear. You will think of something you did together and it will jog a memory about something else about that person. They could have occurred days or sometimes even months apart in very arbitrary order. Therefore, it made perfect sense for "(500) Days of Summer" to be presented in such a manner.
Tom's description of why he was in love with Summer was a great touch. He broke down the same things that make Zooey an alluring woman in the first place: the eyes...the smile...the knees. He is essentially confirming that she is average. Zooey isn't the stunning atypical Hollywood starlet types that looks like they've had plenty of work done. She has a very ordinary look to her that makes her more relatable.
That coincides with the chemistry between Zooey and Joseph. You all know that the chemistry is always the one thing that can make or break a romantic movie for me. Theirs comes across as VERY genuine. Probably because Joseph also looks plain-jane. The two of them are believable as a couple. Even with the way they interact with one another, you can tell they enjoy each other's company. It permeates their performance to the point where it transcends the screen. We feel as though we are witnessing an actual couple.
The one scene that really stood out for me was their version of expectations versus reality. Whenever we are getting ready to embark on a date and/or an event, there is that mental image in your mind of what is going to transpire. It NEVER goes the way you picture it. For "(500) Days of Summer" this is depicted with a split pane approach. One side shows "Expecations" while the other shows "Reality". Naturally, things don't pan out for Tom quite the way he anticipated.
This flick rounds out the second of two great selections I recently received from my Netflix queue. I have come to the decision that I will end 2009 on a good note by making this one the last new movies I see for the rest of the year. I don't want to run the risk of having a poor selection leave a bad taste in my mouth. "(500) Days of Summer" was such a great film that it gives me hope of what the new year will bring.
My rating: A