If I’ve learned anything sitting through countless romance movies with various females over the years, it’s that everything is going to be OK. It’s that in the end, everything will work out, that you can push past the problems of any relationship and find a happy ending if you just try hard enough. Well guess what? I’m not dating any of those girls any more, as that promise turned out to be wildly untrue. So when I sat down for 500 Days of Summer, I expected another touching love story that would make me nostalgic for the happy relationships that have come and gone.
Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon Levitt) is an architect turned greeting card writer who meets Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel), a quirky blue-eyed small town girl turned L.A. office assistant. The two meet and hit off, as the both dig The Smiths and enjoy shopping at IKEA, the foundation of any good relationship.
Why no, there aren’t any pictures from this movie that don’t make it look cheesy and terrible.
The film tells its love tale in a disjointed, time traveling way. It flashes back between days numbering one to 500, and goes from first kisses to hard breakups to reconciliation and back again. It’s the definition of a whirlwind romance, although it’s mostly because the film spins you around so often, it’s easy to forget where you are.
Tom is perhaps the most relatable male lead cast in any romantic comedy I’ve ever seen. And it’s unusual for a romantic comedy to have a male lead at all. But this isn’t She’s All That, or Levitt’s 10 Things I Hate About You, or even Garden State. Though there’s plenty of humor found throughout, there is a much larger, much more important lesson being taught here. One that very few romantic movies have focused solely on before. Heartbreak.
It’s easy to film and act out a story about two star-crossed lovers who were destined to be together since the dawn of time. We all know our famous movie couples: Jack and Rose, Noah and Allie and more recently (sigh) Edward and Bella. But it’s a lot harder to make a movie about a relationship that just doesn’t feel quite right, and it’s fascinating to watch the doomed romance unfold. Deschanel has far more layers than the typical girl traditionally found in these movies who usually alternate between sobbing and beaming. That role instead goes to Levitt, who makes both his joy and pain seem downright palpable throughout the tumultuous course of the film.
See, I told you.
I’m not ruining any here, as the film tells you from the get go, “This is not a love story.” It’s certainly half of one, as Tom falls hard for Summer, but as the film progresses and you being to realize that the feelings are one-sided, the film transcends typical plot developments and aims to be a somewhat inspirational lesson to everyone who’s ever had failed relationship.
And I have. In fact, I’ve had plenty. Maybe that makes me biased in reviewing this movie as I related to it so heavily, but I think the success of the film speaks to the fact that its message resonates with a large chunk of the general public. Unless you ended up marrying your 5th grade sweetheart, you probably know what it’s like to have loved and lost, whether it’s breaking off a three year engagement or finding out that little Jenny Fisher was sharing her Ninja Turtles stickers with Charlie at recess instead of you.
The message the film is trying to convey is “don’t give up” with a bit of “things happen for a reason” thrown in, and it’s the only romantic movie I’ve ever seen where single people walk out smiling while couples are looking at each other awkwardly, trying to decided if their significant other is in fact holding them back from someone better. I highly do NOT recommend this as a date movie.
Yes, this review has turned into something more like a personal essay, but I think that really speaks to how much it can effect you, and to me that’s the mark of a truly great film. 500 Days of Summer breathes new life into a genre that has long left people like me by the wayside, and judging from the overwhelmingly positive response to the film, it’s nice to know I’m not alone.
5 out of 5 stars