(500) Days of Summer

Why can’t this movie be as good as it ought to be? Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel as the leads in an unconventional, indie rom-com? I wanna see that. And I did for a long time, keeping this movie in my watch list for years after its release, never quite getting a chance to watch it, until this afternoon. The problem is that I’ve heard rumblings about the unevenness of (500) Days of Summer in the intervening years, and while I’ve tried not to let writers and friends prematurely influence my opinion, I couldn’t help but worry.

And for good reason. Not since Little Miss Sunshine have I seen an movie so concerned with checking off boxes on a list of indie cinema attributes. Greeting card writer that’s also an aspiring architect? Check. Non-stop soundtrack that makes the whole enterprise feel like a feature length music video with dialog? Check. Quirky friends? Check. Scads of peculiar visual flourishes? Check. The whole movie felt expected.

Now I understand this was the first feature length work for the director and his pair of screenwriters, and boy does it show. Camera shots and movements that seem ill chosen for the moment, or perhaps for to get a cool still for a poster. Dialog and themes that telegraph character behavior. I didn’t hate this movie, but I wish, perhaps, it had been created by some folks with either more under their proverbial belts, or more inherent talent for visual storytelling.

Oh yeah – and JGL’s character? Almost completely unlikeable to me. It’s hard for me to root for our hero when he’s obsessive and jerky so frequently throughout the running time. Still, it’s hard to deny some solid performances by the leads (and almost exclusively the leads). Along with an interesting take on the genre, they saved the movie for me quite a bit.

3/5

2 thoughts on “(500) Days of Summer

  1. Oh man! This is not at all how I saw this movie. I thought the whole point of it was really not to like the main characters. Summer is a typical cooler-than-thou chick who has no idea what the heck she wants but freely strings along people in her path, and JGL’s character is someone who has put a Manic Pixie Dream Girl on a pedestal, expecting her to fix / bring meaning to his life instead of finding his identity independently. The real wisdom of the movie is in the advice of his younger sister. As someone who has been through this very coming-of-age scenario, I really valued its departure from the typical "find this person, ‘get’ this person, then be blissfully happy with your new possession" storyline that most movies put forth. This movie calls that crap out loudly.

    1. Hey Tess,

      I totally appreciate that it’s not a typical find/get kinda movie, and that’s not what I wanted out of it. I think all the other flaws I found just made the unlikeability of the characters grate on me.

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