Friday, January 22, 2010

500 Days of Summer (2009)

Love in the movies is always the same, right? Boy and girl meet in some adorable way and fall into a love that is perfect, mutual, and all-important. They usually have to overcome some obstacles to be together, and the movie may even give us a tragic ending where they are permanently separated by death or circumstances, but their love is eternal. The most important thing in the world is that the Boy and the Girl, who were Meant For Each Other can Be Together. If that can be achieved, then Everything Will Work Out.

Real love, of course, is complicated. It is probably made even more complicated by Hollywood’s efforts, which have trained so many of us to expect the Hollywood version of love. “500 Days of Summer” explores, in a small way, a more realistic version of love. It’s a love story where the Boy and the Girl love each other, just not equally.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Tom, a greeting card writer who falls head-over-heels for Summer (Zooey Deschanel). It’s easy to see why. There are lots of beautiful actresses with big, blue eyes, but Ms. Deschanel has a certain fresh, quirky quality that makes her irresistible. She isn’t, strictly speaking, the sexiest actress, but I can’t imagine a guy who wouldn’t want her to be his girlfriend. (She reminds me of Molly Ringwald in that.) Anyway, Summer and Tom hit it off and date for a blissful while. Since the movie jumps back and forth in time, I’m not really ruining anything for you by revealing that Summer tires of the relationship before Tom does. Instead of the standard movie where Tom Gets Her Back, this is a movie about Tom Getting Past It.

No new ground is really covered here. Breakup movies aren’t as common as standard romances, but if there can be said to be a Breakup Movie formula, “500 Days of Summer” follows the formula. Tom gets advice from his wacky roommates and his ridiculously wise little sister. He mopes, breaks stuff, etc., and ultimately he uses the breakup as a transformative experience that gets his life back on track. Standard stuff, but nicely done, with charming performances by Levitt and Deschanel. The film has some good humor, it handles the serious bits with class, and it’s a nice little piece of entertainment.

3.5 stars

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