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Review: 500 Days of Summer

September 30, 2009


By Chad Larson

Just about every guy has met that girl he “clicked” with and was absolutely, positively sure she was “the one” because she shared a similar interest.

Such is the story of Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Summer (Zoey Deschanel). The movie starts in media res with a shot of the two of them sitting side by side on a bench, her hand on his, with a gleaming ring on her finger.

However, as the ever-present “Day counter” (of the 500 days) rewinds a bit, we see that they’ve broken up and Tom is wallowing in sorrow. His friends try to comfort him and his little sister rides her bike across town late at night to give him advice.

The story is told in a disjointed fashion, jumping around at different points in Tom and Summer’s relationship. We see the day they met, in a meeting at the greeting card company Tom works for. We see them drinking and hanging out at a karaoke party, after which Summer tells Tom he’s interesting, after professing her lack of need for a boyfriend. We see Tom obsessing over every detail of their interactions and acting like he doesn’t care (and who hasn’t done that during that awkward phase when you aren’t sure the girl likes you back?)

The ups and downs of their relationship are, of course, the central part of the story. We see that down the line Summer appears to lose interest in Tom and the little joking things he does don’t make her smile anymore. We see Tom rejoicing after the first night they spend together, just after we’ve seen him agonizing over the fact that she doesn’t want anything serious.

This film has a lot of strengths. One is the cast. Gordon-Levitt is funny and genuine in the lead role, and has really proven to be a great actor despite his humble beginnings on Third Rock From the Sun. Deschanel is, as always, quirky and cute.

Another is the way the story is told. If this was a straightforward, chronological story, I think it would be pretty boring. The jumping around keeps you guessing if their relationship will last, and the realistic and funny ways Tom deals with the roller coaster of their relationship should ring true to anyone who’s ever asked the question “We’ve been seeing each other a while… are you my girlfriend now?” and dreaded getting the answer.

Finally, this film has a fantastic soundtrack. The Smiths, Wolfmother, Regina Spektor, Simon & Garfunkel, Hall & Oates, and others are just Indie enough to not be on the Transformers soundtrack, but they aren’t obscure hipster groups no one has heard of, something that I get annoyed with in lots of “Indie” movies.

Over all, this is a movie that I enjoyed and genuinely got involved in, and so did my girlfriend. It was a “romantic comedy” that I didn’t feel like gouging out my eyes halfway through, and true to life, you aren’t quite sure how things will pan out in the end… and upon reflection, even if things don’t work out as you like, maybe something better will come along.

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