Review: (500) Days of Summer (2009)



Marc Webb
Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber
95 min.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel, Geoffrey Arend, Chloe Moretz, Matthew Gray Gubler, Clark Gregg
MPAA Rating
PG-13 for sexual material and language.

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The film (500) Days of Summer is not a story about an exceptionally long season, but about the lengthy obsession of one love-struck young man and the girl whose name just happens to be synonymous and analogous to the warmest of times.

Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is an introverted artist working at a greeting card company where he successfully generates well-meaning and respectable card images and quotes. Yet, the joyous benevolence that is often represented in the giving of a card carries little meaning for the young man until he meets a new employee, Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel).

She doesn’t notice he exists because he doesn’t show her that he does. He admires her from afar, thinking that such a beautiful and luminous person would never have anything to do with him. But, his infatuation eventually leads him to talk to her and he soon discovers that he was not as invisible as he thought, but as they begin “dating”, Tom soon discovers that the relationship he’s in is not what he had desired or expected.

Summer is the definition of a free spirit. Like the wind-swept, balmy season for which she’s named, Summer finds titles and words tie her down too heavily. She refuses to be referred to as a girlfriend and her past is an inconvenient gnat that occasionally buzzes around her budding semi-non-relationship with Tom. Nevertheless, Tom finds himself entwined in her magnetism, neurotically attempting to move the relationship forward as she draws close the almost immediately pushes him away. It’s 500 days of being on an emotional roller coaster that has no brakes.

Gordon-Levitt is one of the hottest commodities in the indie film community. Despite launching his career on television at the age of 7 and participating in a number of popular and recognizable series (Dark Shadows being his earliest recurring role; and findnig further success on the short-lived The Powers That Be and ultimately landing on the popular sci-fi comedy series 3rd Rock from the Sun), Gordon-Levitt has predominantly chosen smaller, more challenging filmic roles. Excusing much of the work he did as a child, from Mysterious Skin and Brick forward, he has been reliably independent. And, although he has begun to take on more commercial projects in an effort to expand his horizons, roles like Tom Hansen are precisely why many of us love his work.

Hansen is a complex character that jumps from one emotion to another without much concern for those around him. The character’s manic nature would be off-putting or aggravating in many actors’ hands, but Gordon-Levitt manages to ground the character, keeping him a thriving and credible individual whose failures and successes impact the viewer as if he were a brother, cheering for him when he succeeds and sharing in his sorrow when he fails. Gordon-Levitt’s is a unique talent that deserves more mass recognition than it has gotten.

Deschanel is perfectly cast as the enigmatic, flighty Summer. While this is her stereotypical performance, it fits well into the film’s frame. Although many other actresses could have easily melded into this role, her past outings were thoroughly preparatory.

The film jumps through time exploring the complex relationship between Tom and Summer, shifting fluidly as the audience slowly comes to realize just how complicated and unusual their relationship is. Late-film revelations aren’t jarring or unexpected, they simply exist. (500) Days of Summer is a film that simply and joyously explores the complicated dance of a relationship that, despite being completely unusual and abnormal for most, still manages to feel familiar and relatable.

Screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber should be commended for keeping the narrative tightly controlled and the characters grounded. They are ably supported by director Marc Webb who brings their delicious, humorous and astute script to the screen. The stylistic flourishes that could have been abused are simply applied and aid the viewer in processing the vast amounts of information being put forth.

Anyone who’s ever loved before or at least experienced a confusing and frustrating relationship should find something to appreciate in (500) Days of Summer. And even if you haven’t, it’s good to see a twisted relationship that isn’t played as a broad, unrealistic farce.
Review Written
April 23, 2010
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(500) Days of Summer

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