© 2009 Ray Wong
Forget The Ugly Truth. Forget The Time Traveler's Wife. Forget Funny People. Forget Sandra Bullock. If you only see one movie about relationships this year, make it (500) Days of Summer.
For LA greeting card writer Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), meeting Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel) is very much love at first sight. Tom is immediately smitten with his boss' (Clark Gregg) new assistant, but Summer remains elusive until opportunities push them together. However, right off the start, Summer tells Tom that she's not looking for a relationship, so let's keep everything casual. On a logical level, Tom is okay with that, but on an emotional level, Tom believes Summer is the one.
Summer and Tom's relationship is going very well until Tom begins to question where it is going. He doesn't want to rock the boat, knowing Summer has an aversion to labels. Soon, however, Tom must know and, of course, he does rock the boat and Summer freaks out. The fact is that Summer doesn't want to commit to the relationship. She's enjoying herself, and the minute Tom becomes attached, that's when things change.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt (G.I. Joe) is an unlikely romantic hero but he's charming and affecting as the love-sick man. Gordon-Levitt handles the gamut of emotions very well, and gives an inspired and impressive performance. Zooey Deschanel (Yes Man) is lovely as the aloof heroine. There's an offbeat quality to her and she uses it very well to bring the conflicted character to life. Deschanel and Gordon-Levitt have wonderful chemistry together, and that makes it a bit heartbreaking to watch them meander through the muddy path of love.
Geoffrey Arend (An American Carol) is dutiful as Tom's dorky best friend, who pulls some strings to get Tom and Summer together. Matthew Gray Gubler (RV) is interesting as Tom's other dorky best friend. The trio works well together. Chloe Moretz (Not Forgotten) plays Tom's unlikely "love guru" with authority, despite her age. Clark Gregg (Iron Man) is sincere as Tom's boss, and Richard McGonagle (The Bucket List) has the right voice and personality as the narrator.
Written by Scott Neustadter (The Pink Panther 2) and Michael H. Weber (The Pink Panther 2), the screenplay has a light and fluffy feel to it, even though it tackles some serious issues about relationships. What the writers bring is an insightful and realistic look at relationship without taking themselves too seriously. The structure of film is very interesting. By jumping back and forth in time, the writers are able to create intrigue and mystery while pulling the audience through. We never quite know what happened and what to expect. Meanwhile, we root for the two main characters to succeed in whatever they're doing, because they're so damn likable. At the same time, we know in the back of our minds that nothing is that easy.
The dialogue is witty and to the point, without being overly sappy or condescending. The omniscient narrator is a great touch and adds a nice storytelling quality to the film. In a way, it is almost like a fairy tale. Their writing is fresh and interesting, and the characters resonate. The structure also makes an otherwise straight-forward story interesting. It's almost like flipping through a novel trying to find out what happens, and then trying to find out how that happened at the same time.
Director Marc Webb (Seascape) is able to put everything together in a light-hearted fashion. The whole production has the look and feel of a romantic comedy and in many ways, it is, but it also defies expectations. Webb's pacing is just right and his style reminds me of Stranger Than Fiction.
There's nothing earth-shattering about this little film about love and relationship. In a way, some of it is rather cliched, when it comes down to it. What the filmmakers have done, however, is put a new spin on an old genre, and the result is delightful, witty, and entertaining. The Sundance favorite is a small Summer gem not to be missed.
Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel, Geoffrey Arend, Chloe Moretz, Matthew Gray Gubler, Clark Gregg, Richard McGonagle
Director: Marc Webb
Writers: Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
MPAA Rating: PG-13 sexual material and language
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Script – 8
Performance – 8
Direction – 8
Cinematography – 8
Editing – 8
Production – 8
Total – 8.0 out of 10