I was running hot-and-cold on the idea of seeing the (500) Days of Summer. The previews reek of This Is An Independent Film. And sometimes I get a little twitchy when I hear the acoustic guitar and screechy voice on trailer after trailer after trailer.
And it’s not a love story, it’s a story about love. That’s the actual tagline. I read something like that and I think: Aw, hell, someone’s gonna die.
‘cause in the world of indie theater, you can’t hardly have a happy ending and keep your bona fides. Which tends to make indie love stories as predictable as their big budget parallels, but a lot more depressing. A lukewarm tweet and IMDB listing it as the 116th greatest movie of all time, made me suspicious.
But then I got a positive review from a relative and then Ruth Anne Adams tweeted a positive review–and, well, we’d seen everything else. So, off we went.
(500) Days of Summer concerns Tom and Summer, who meet at a greeting card company in Los Angeles. He falls for her immediately, though he’s kind of a tortured soul and takes weeks to—well, actually, he never asks her out. He obsesses over her for weeks and then a friend tells her he likes her after a night of drunken karaoke.
This is after we learn that Summer doesn’t believe in destiny, fate, soul mates—or love, even.
The movie uses a device to jump around between the various days in the 500, and this works very well, most of the time, showing us some wonderful counterpoints in the tumultuous relationship. It’s not a spoiler to say that the “boy loses girl” part is about 280 days in, and the question the movie is largely concerned with is: Can Tom get Summer back? How did he loser her? And should Tom get Summer back?
Since we only see Summer through Tom’s eyes, we actually get a very incomplete view of her. She seems a bit damaged, a bit closed off, maybe even a bit cold, but we’re not given a lot to base out views on. Ultimately, then, this is a movie about Tom, which is definitely different for a love story.
The ending is also different.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is the star, and at not quite 30, I think it must be pretty cool to be a 20-year-veteran. The object of his obsessive affection is Zooey Deschanel who is particularly plausible as the sort of girl you could obsess over, even if you never really understood her.
Good acting, from the leads and the supporting characters, who generally contribute to the story. The only supporting role that kind of clunked for me was that of Tom’s younger sister. The actress (Chloe Moretz) wasn’t at fault; I just thought the 12-year-old with all the relationship advice was kind of a hacky device.
The music wasn’t irritating either, and not too much like “Wow, we’re setting our soundtrack to a movie.” I thought “Bookends” was an odd choice but otherwise I thought it fit nicely.
Besides the usual pitfalls of movie-making, indie films have special pitfalls to avoid, and when they’re successful artistically, they often have the special pitfall of being ridiculously overhyped (My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Napoleon Dynamite).
116th best movie ever? Well,that’s a bit much. It’s a very good movie. Different without being militantly quirky. Bittersweet without being schmaltzy. The Boy approved.
And this was the third film in a row we saw set in Los Angeles. (This showed a side of L.A. you don’t usually see, either, which was nice.)
So, set your sights accordingly, and you’ll have a good time.