I was more or less dragged to this movie. I was aware of it, but had no real interest in it. When I was asked to go, I tried my hardest to convince my friends to see something else. I even played the “GI Joe” card so you know I was starting to get desperate. Turns out convincing three woman to see GI Joe on opening night is quite a task and so I found myself sitting in the theatre for 500 Days of Summer. I’m glad to say that everything worked out and the people leaving our theatre sure looked a lot happier than those leaving the one playing GI Joe.
The story centers around the relationship between Tom and Summer, who are played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel. They have 500 days together and the movie jumps back and forth between them. There is no straight time-line here. One scene will take place on Day 2, and then the next on Day 430. It really is a great gimmick that never actually comes off as a gimmick, which is always important.
It’s a little tricky to place this movie within a set genre. At first glance it would appear to be a romantic comedy, and at times it is, but it’s not really one in the grand scheme of things. It’s not a flat-out comedy either, despite a lot of solid laughs. I also hesitate to call it a drama, even though there is a lot of serious content. I love when a movie is hard to place like that so kudos to you 500 Days of Summer. The closest comparison I can think of offhand is Garden State, a movie I’ve always loved and have never understood the backlash towards.
The trick with a movie that crosses over several different genres is that it does it well and doesn’t become schizophrenic. Thankfully 500 Days balances all of these moods perfectly. One minute you could be smiling and laughing and then within seconds you’re thrown into the next scene and it’s somber and moody. Yet it never feels jarring. It really does walk the perfect line.
The movie is firmly planted in its independent roots. There are lots of random, quirky little touches spread throughout that were always enjoyable. It’s always surprising and it doesn’t feel forced either. A particular musical number is a real highlight and so out of left-field that you just can’t help but smile the entire time you’re watching it.
The cast is excellent across the board. Zooey’s character goes all over the place. First you love her, then you hate her, and it always goes back and forth. Hell sometimes it goes back and forth several times in the same scene. She’s always an engaging presence and my GOD those eyes!!! It’s like staring into pure happiness. Gordon-Levitt I find is just about always good and there's no exception here. I don’t think he’s really gotten to do this much comedy since 3rd Rock, so it’s cool to see him busting out the comedic chops once again.
I think what I liked most about this movie is that it felt realistic, which is something you can’t say for most romance themed movies. Many moments felt completely real and I’m sure the majority of the audience can relate to at least one scene. I’m sure a lot of this is at least partially inspired by real events and it shows. There's none of that stupid "uh oh, you're wearing vibrating panties at a classy restaurant and they won't shut off!" stuff going on here. It's real people, in real situations.........real.
Overall this one is a pleasant surprise and I would highly recommend it. It’s great counter programming to the usual summer blockbuster, and it deserves your money far, far more than most of them as well. Get out there and support actual effort!