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Sunday, August 23, 2009

MOVIE REVIEW: 500 Days of Summer

I took off from work on Thursday, in part so I could complete the split movie date thing my wife and I do. She saw 500 Days of Summer a couple weeks back and thoroughly enjoyed it. I...well, three days in, I'm still running it through my head.

The movie has been described as a romantic comedy; this would be a stretch. Certainly the guy (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is interested in romance. But the woman of his dreams (Zooey Deschanel) just doesn't believe in that stuff.

500 Days (Variety and Roger Ebert aren't using the parentheses around 500, so I'll opt out too) evokes a lot of other movies. Evokes them pretty well too, though perhaps too much "on the nose."

There"s a scene that uses a Hall and Oates song that is clearly inspired by a scene in a John Hughes movie. The song title from the Hughes film even appear in the lyrics of the H&O tune. On the other hand, I enjoyed it - a lot, actually - for what it was.

Likewise, there seems to be an homage to the movies of Woody Allen from the 1970s. But not only did the split screen work, it was quite reminiscent of my real life.

Finally, it is stated that the female in the movie totally misreads the ending of The Graduate, and it is actually that final scene on the bus, complete with the Bookends Theme by Simon & Garfunkel, that, in retrospect, 500 Days pivots on.

It just feels that all of these elements plus the cute-at-first-but-eventually-annoying time shift dynamic didn't always feel like the same film, as though it were being made by a guy stitching a bunch of music videos together. Yet through it all, it did speak truthfully, it played fair, the characters were believable, even though the female lead was (intentionally) less than accessible. There was no deus ex machina.

Read Roger Ebert's four-star review:
Some say they’re annoyed by the way it begins on Day 488 or whatever and then jumps around, providing utterly unhelpful data labels: "Day 1," "Day 249." Movies are supposed to reassure us that events unfold in an orderly procession. But Tom remembers his love, Summer, as a series of joys and bafflements. What kind of woman likes you perfectly sincerely and has no one else in her life but is not interested in ever getting married?

Then look at the less than favorable one from Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal:
Marc Webb’s bright bauble of a boy-meets-girl comedy is a rueful tribute to the wisdom of hindsight (if you want to be philosophical); an elaborate exercise in deconstruction (if you want to be trendy), a postmodern mishmash (if you want to be uncharitable), a cautionary tale about the perils of projection (if you want to be psychological) or, if you want to be as clinical as the film finally decides to be, an exhaustive and exhausting dissection of a relationship that was never all that promising in the first place.

Thing is, I totally agree. With BOTH of them. A blogger who seemed to like it called it "treacherously twee." So go see the movie. If you're like 88% of the critics, you'll enjoy the film. But if you don't, I'd understand that too.


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