(500) Days Are too Little of Summer
Adriana Pratt | Friday, August 28, 2009
Unrequited love hurts, but what hurts even worse is the kind of love that draws you in, leads you on and then drops you off the cliff with barely a moment’s notice. Today’s romantic comedies usually ignore that sometimes-inevitable sequence of events but this summer’s best one delves into the stickiest mess of all in an ironic, funny, and bitingly real way. “(500) Days of Summer” winds its way through the tale of a young man named Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who, while stuck in an unsatisfying career looking for the fulfilling relationship he always dreamt of, jumps at the first ray of hope he sees – a lovely woman named Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel). He soon learns though that sometimes the sunshine fades and eventually burns out and all that is left to do is move on. Tom comes away realizing that sometimes the most trying experiences provide the best opportunity for growth.
In a startling but attention-grabbing opening to the film, the writers, Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, print a vengeful but entertaining shout out to the woman who inspired “(500) Days” on the big screen. The opening not only provokes laughter from the audience, but also sets the tone for what will be a moving, painful and funny trip down love’s treacherous lane. Citing Cameron Crowe (writer of “Almost Famous,” “Jerry Maguire,” etc.) as their stylistic inspiration, Neustadter and Weber’s alternative approach to romance and their desire to grasp reality and force it into a film is not only refreshing but more insightful than most of today’s Hollywood romantic comedies.
In a unique approach to chronology, the film toys with the past, jumping from moment to moment in a random but coherent way. This method mimics the sporadic journey through the memory that a freshly distinguished relationship forces on its victims as they try to sort through the “hows” and “whys” of a failed romance. Only once Tom learns that it is time to pick himself up and move on, does the film finally land both the audience and Tom in the present day. This final realization comes after a painstakingly desperate search to figure out when his relationship with the aloof but vulnerable Summer soured.
One particular scene does a fantastic job of highlighting the genius of “(500) Days” writers and director (Marc Webb). Through its juxtaposition of Tom’s fantasy post-break-up Summer encounter with the reality of what actually takes place, both scenes of fantasy and reality run simultaneously on screen showing the harsh differences between what one desires versus what one actually gets. When Summer invites Tom to a party at her apartment, visions of her falling back into his arms and successfully becoming his quickly overcome him. However, what he meets in actuality not only leaves his dreams unfulfilled, but also successfully crushed. This harsh choking of any future Tom might have had with Summer reminds the audience that, as the Rolling Stones once sang, “You can’t always get what you want.”
The film’s strengths don’t solely lie in its artistic and unique compilation. In fact, the characterization and development of the characters by the actors is flawless and the movie’s best asset. Many of us have found ourselves in the shoes of Tom Hansen or Summer Finn, or maybe even both. The hopefulness and innocent naivety of Tom in his determined pursuit of Summer calls to mind painful memories of chasing the one believed to be “the one” only to discover that the feelings were unmatched. On the other side of the spectrum, the cool and charming Summer had the capability to woo any man she wished but also the prudence to choose not just anyone. Her outlook on the unlikelihood of love made her ultimately unreachable until the right one came along. Her important character development reminds the audience that love is not something that can be forced, but has to be found naturally.
“(500) Days of Summer,” complete with an outstanding soundtrack that compliments Tom’s highs and lows, is one worth paying $9.75 to see. The light shed on the nature of love is poignant and clear with a dose of bittersweet reality. The only flaw with “(500) Days of Summer” is that it outshines the numerous other romantic comedies in existence, setting the bar too high for Hollywood to live up to.