Review: 500 Days of Summer Brings the Innovation

"Funny, interesting, innovative, and worthy of your love."


Editor's Note: This film was originally screened at Sundance 2009.

It's been said that I have very little patience for terrible romantic comedies (of which there are many). They make me furious. Luckily, 500 Days of Summer isn't one of those. It's funny, interesting, innovative, and worthy of your love. Zooey and Joseph Gordon-Levitt light up the screen! OK, whew, I'm exhausted. Thus ends my mini-foray into poster quote writing.

The plot of the film is fairly straightforward. Summer (Zooey Deschanel) is a new assistant at the greeting card company where Joseph Gordon-Levitt is employed. He wanted to be an architect, but he's found a dead-end job writing hokey greetings instead. The set-up is nothing special, and the main thrust of the piece comes from the non-linear construct. The film, to its credit, jumps around from the ending to the beginning and back again, all in an attempt to encapsulate the numerous ups and downs of relationships. It's very smooth and well done; Marc Webb clearly has a solid visual eye and natural sense of pacing.

However, innovation is where 500 Days of Summer really makes its mark. It zigs right when you think it's going to zag, and it often finds comedy in real-life situations. Though naturalistic comedies are the new pink, the film does an exceptional job at mining the humor in real-life situations. This isn't a mall cop on a Segway type of comedy if you get my drift. There are real situations with legitimate conflict that present actual intrigue and laughs. It's strange, after seeing so many try and fail, to realize that the romantic comedy never died. It was just being rented by people who didn't know what to do with it. The other place 500 Days shines is the message: The film has interesting things to say about both memory and the expectations game. We all tend to remember the good times ... to the exclusion of the truth. We all tend to build moments that then let us down. This film speaks to these inherent human weaknesses; but it does so in a manner that's not heavy-handed.

Now then, I can't really fully break down the things I loved because I don't want to spoil the effect. But two moments stand out, and I hope you'll reflect on these items when you see the film. First off was a moment of pure silliness that involves singing and dancing. You'll know it when you see it. Then, near the end, there is a pretty amazing side-by-side shot, employed for maximum dramatic effect, that deals with expectations vs. reality. I dug it, as I dug how the story bounced around for those of us who like to keep things moving. This is a very well crafted romantic comedy. See it whether you're single, married, or anything in between.

Grade: A