Thursday, July 28, 2011

(500) Days of Summer

I kind of like romantic comedies that aren't really romantic comedies. I think Annie Hall is a great example of one, and so is (500) Days of Summer. They're both really funny and sweet, and have interesting romantic stories. But they aren't romantic comedies. Because that classification requires the two leads getting together at the end, right? And that's not what we have here. Right from the start we know that Tom isn't going to end up with Summer, because of the whole 500 day thing. The only surprise was how early in that period they actually break up, with the rest dealing with how he responds to his devastation. The movie jumps back and forth in time constantly, using the technique to establish his miserableness after it's over, show how they got together, and then cleverly reveal over time what helped lead to a dumping that he apparently didn't see coming. It's a great script, and a well put-together film with good acting by the two leads. One of my only issues with the whole thing really is the slightly silly title.

The film walks a precarious tightrope the entire time, as it really strives for a specific mindset, with lots of stylish touches and gimmicky scenes throughout. A split-screen is frequently used to show what's happening in two different locations, or in one particularly interesting sequence, two different realities. The whole 500 days thing permeates the film, as we're constantly told exactly how many days into the relationship we are at a given moment, which provides comedic juxtaposition and assists the storytelling. There's some weird stuff going on, and if you combine it with the two main characters' indie music sensibilities (they like The Smiths and he sings Pixies at a karaoke bar and discuss their favorite Beatle) and the character of Tom's sister, it could all become really cheesy and silly quickly. Only the last part really bothered me at all though, and I thought the way the chipper mood of the two when they're together clashed with his depression when it's over was smart. It manages to be emotional without getting too sappy, because it's easy to see how much duller his life is without her.

The only thing I know about Marc Webb is that he's directing the too-soon Spider-Man reboot, but he seems to have a handle on filmmaking here. He juggles managing the actors with getting all those quirky bits in, and the style never gets in the way of the story. My man crush on Joseph Gordon-Levitt continues, as he does a great job with the material and comes off as likable despite some of his actions being less than positive or justifiable. Zooey Deschanel is good too, being instantly desirable when she's supposed to and coming off well despite the one-sided nature of the film's perspective. I don't understand why Chloe Moretz can never just play a normal little girl, and her wise-beyond-her-years little sister act didn't quite work for me here. She's not objectively bad, though. Clark Gregg, who's most recognizable these days as Agent Coulson in all of the Marvel movies, is also likable as Tom's super-cheerful boss. I've talked before about how sometimes films don't need to be perfect to just be effective emotional experiences, and I think that definitely applies here. A lot of the individual elements might have bugged me on their own, but all together it's a really slick and entertaining film. Not a romantic comedy, but a funny and charming movie nonetheless.

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