Wednesday, January 13, 2010

(500) Days of Summer

(500) Days of Summer is a romantic comedy starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who wears almost as many ties as Simon Baker in The Mentalist; and Zoe Deschanel, who is clearly contractually obligated to sing in every single movie she's in (seriously, is that really necessary?  I know she sings in a band, but it's not like she's Mariah Carey and her voice is her best asset).  And it is very funny and very romantic, despite the fact that it's all about a break-up.

Tom works at a greeting card company and has a life-long obsession with finding The One, due to, if I remember correctly, too much British pop music and a total mis-reading of the movie, The Graduate.  One day Summer starts working at the card company as a secretary.  Tom does a Jim and spends most of his days at his desk, staring at Summer while he "works" and developing a stalker-ish obsession.  After they get drunk together, Summer decides he's interesting, makes out with him in the copy room, and they start sleeping together.  Tiny problem:  Summer doesn't want to be in a committed relationship.  Their story of true love is obviously headed to the crash & burn department, but Tom remains blissfully unaware of Summer's growing discontent. 

After she breaks up with him, Tom goes into a post-relationship tailspin that lasts about a FREAKING YEAR.  Out of proportion much?  He goes flipping insane and starts writing greeting cards like, "Roses are red, violets are blue... fuck you, whore."  I hate to say it, but... I do not think this person should be in a relationship.  Ever!  Yet through it all, Tom, and the audience, retain hope that he will somehow manage to get Summer back and they'll live happily ever after.

The summary for this movie makes it sound like it's depressing, but it's really not.  It's a lovely spin on the old romantic comedy formula that feels fresh and charming.  Paradoxically, by going through the most terrible breakup ever (even if it is all in his own mind), Tom gives us all hope that we will recover from our various relationship FUBARs to emerge smarter, better looking, and open to finding The One. 

Tom is a total beta-male, and there is definitely some gender role reversal going on with him and Summer.  She's the one who's afraid of commitment, who makes the first move, who is sexually daring and who decides when it's over.  I don't think that's played for laughs, though; it just makes sense within the context of the movie.

If I had to criticize one thing about (500) Days of Summer, it would be that Summer is totally objectified.  There are gorgeous, close-up shots of her knees, her smile, her eyes, her hair... plus her motivations and character are never really explained.  Why did she break up with Tom?  I don't know.  Maybe it was because he stared at her knees all the time!  The movie is told completely from Tom's viewpoint--in that way, it reminded me of High Fidelity.  But at least in High Fidelity you had women who had somewhat real personalities and their own wants and desires separate from those of the main male character.  I felt like Deschanel's role in this movie was mainly to look pretty and desirable so we'd all understand why Tom liked her.  Kind of annoying, that.

However, aside from that, this is very well-written, well-acted romantic comedy.  And, even though it's not a love story, I think it will make anyone believe in love (if they didn't before, of course).

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