If we opened the summer by having our first comedy review, The Hangover, then I suppose it only seems fitting to end the summer by reviewing our first... romantic comedy. Now, despite the label given to (500) Days of Summer, Marc Webb's feature film directorial debut felt like a much different film than the typical romance movie, but you'll have to read on to find out why.
What I found so different about (500) Days of Summer, or at least what made it more interesting, is that it was from the male character's, Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), point of view as opposed to that of the leading female character, in this case, Summer (Zooey Deschanel). However, this may have been done before, I wouldn't know, this isn't really my choice film genre. But, what I do know about the film is that it's very upfront as to what you're going to see, as the narrator clearly says, "You should know upfront that this is not a love story," which in my mind already makes it different from the typical happy ending, feel-good romance films.
The premise of the film is quite simple, Tom wishes to one day find "the one" and Summer feels that she's happier being free and independent. But while the characters may sound like nothing new, it's the way that (500) Days of Summer is presented that makes the movie so unique. As the title may suggest, the movie chronicles Tom's 500 days with Summer, as he tries to figure out where their relationship went sour.
Constantly throughout the film it will cut to a screen displaying what day it is (i.e. "Day (476)" and so on), though it is never in chronological order, making the viewer decipher what's really going on. I definitely liked the idea of viewing their relationship on a day-by-day basis, and a lot of times in the film it works. But then there's times where it's just bouncing back and forth too much, and it really seems to lose its impact. Marc Webb's unique directive touch is appreciated, but the execution just isn't always there (maybe next time buddy).
Otherwise, there are definitely parts of the film I enjoyed. The soundtrack is great if The Smiths and indie music are your thing, and I was glad that Zooey Deschanel was able to show off her singing talents in the film, as I much enjoyed her work with M. Ward on their She & Him album, Volume One (and I hope to hear more!). But there's was a lot of subtle things as well that were cool to see, like the assorted Smiths posters, or Tom's Joy Division t-shirt, not to mention the Han Solo cameo (I'm not sure how they got the rights to do that by the way) in one of the more amusing scenes of the film.
Overall, (500) Days of Summer is a good film, and for Marc Webb's directorial debut it certainly raises hopes for whatever film projects he may have in the future. But it still has its short-comings; mainly due to the unique day-by-day non-sequential storytelling, which is sometimes the film's greatest achievement, and yet it's biggest fault. I was also pleased with the casting, as this role for Joseph Gordon-Levitt felt more fitting of his personality then say... Cobra Commander, and it seemed like Zooey really got to be herself for most of the film, instead of hamming up emotions like she and the rest of the cast did in M. Night Shyamalan's The Happening. In the end, I did like the film as an "alternative romantic comedy", but if that's what you're looking for, I'd probably suggest something more like Garden State instead.
Overall Score: 8/10
For those curious, (500) Days of Summer had a limited release earlier this summer in July, but recently had its wide release on August 7th. That means it should actually be playing in a theater near you, unlike most independent films I've reviewed.
Visit the film's official website at FoxSearchlight.com
Watch Marc Webb's Cinemash short with Joseph and Zooey