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“500 Days” Well Spent

12 August 2009
Tom and Summer

Tom and Summer

I love a good indie film.  Why?  Oh–it’s simple.  They seem always to be made by people who really want to make something great and artful without concern given to how much money either they will make, or the film itself will net at the box office.  When one thinks of summer movies, one almost always thinks of the Transformers and Spiderman‘s of this, our magical movie world.  But those tend to disappoint–well–me, at least.  That’s why I’m so thankful to find a film like Away We Go or (500) Days of Summer.  Perhaps I shouldn’t lump the two in together in one sentence because they have absolutely nothing to do with one another, but truly, they have a similar indie-feel and really remind me of exactly WHY I love the movies.  This “review” (and I use the term loosely!) is pertaining to the later.

The movie opens up with the rather ominous disclaimer that “this is not a love story.”  That might seem pretentious in another picture or it might seem a total lie, in the case of (500) Days, it’s just a method of reminding us not to look at this as just another sappy, “boy meets girl, they fall in love” romantic comedy.  And they’re right, it’s not a love story.  Not between the two main characters Tom and Summer (Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel).  But it is a story about love.  We see their relationship played back as Tom might look back on it.  We get to see both the happy moments from the “before” tempered with crushing “after” scenes.  And that’s largely how it is, isn’t it?  When we turn and look back on just what happened over the course of our “500 days”.   We don’t just see the bad times or just the good, it’s good peppered with bad (or vice versa!).

Tom’s a perfectly wonderful guy and his idea of love seems very grandiose and he ascribes an almost cosmic meaning to every moment between he and Summer.  He’s looking for a certain girl and (he believes) Summer is the one.  The problem for Tom is that Summer does not believe in love.  She’s seen it go wrong and she doesn’t “get it.”  Summer’s up front about that from the beginning.  She doesn’t want anything serious.  She doesn’t want a boyfriend.  Tom lets this go in one ear and out the other.  He believes he can change her.  How, if they get along so well, are attracted to one another, and neither one wants anyone else, can Summer possibly NOT want a relationship?  Tom’s refusal to face reality will be his undoing.  Thus the film proceeds through a series of “clips” back and forth form their present to their past and back again.

There are lovely little moments throughout the movie that are so much fun, you forget that “this is not a love story.”  There’s even an imaginary dance sequence to Hall and Oats that is too priceless and surprising to describe here.  You’ll need to see it for yourself!

In the end, (500) Days of Summer (absurd punctuation at the beginning of that film title, isn’t it?  That’s what I thought, too.  Who begins a title WITH the punctuation?) isn’t truly a love story in that it isn’t about love conquering all.  It is about how two people meet, get along, but ultimately are not “the one” for each other and how there just might be a reason for that.  Zooey Deschanel is delightful (when isn’t she?  I mean, this is the girl who even made a rather abysmal Yes, Man enjoyable to sit through) in her role as Summer and Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays the hapless, lovesick Tom with aplomb not characteristic of the role he inhabits.  It’s a funny, witty, appealing and truly gratifying movie-going experience.  Highly recommended (in fact, my husband liked this one more than Away We Go–but I was so enamoured of that one, I don’t know if I can say the same).

Also, a word about the soundtrack: AMAZING.  I love it.  Indie films are constantly introducing me to music artists I might never before have listened to.  Check it out!

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