The Popcorn Reel                                                                      
                                                                                                                                                                Friday, July 17, 2009                                      

500 Days Of Summer

It's Summer Time, And The Lovin' Ain't Easy (At Least For Him)

Roller coaster romance in Los Angeles: Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Tom, and Zooey Deschanel as Summer, in Marc Webb's "(500) Days Of Summer", which opened today in the U.S. and Canada.  (Photo: Chuck Zlotnick/Fox Searchlight)

By Omar P.L. Moore/   SHARE
Friday, July 17, 2009

"(500) Days Of Summer" is both delightful and demented -- at least that's true of the tortuous complexity that its year-and-a-half relationship between Summer (Zooey Deschanel) and Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) illustrates.  The two meet randomly at the same workplace (never a good place to start a romance) and they soon connect.  As viewed by "Summer" director Marc Webb and cinematographer Eric Steelberg, the Los Angeles of this film has never looked bleaker in the summertime.  Drab, almost monochromatic bluish green and pale beige hues dominate Mr. Webb's City of Angels, mirroring the melancholy of a journey of two strangers who think they know each other.  There's plenty to laugh about in the film though, which is set out of sequence via flashback episodes of Tom, a young man, a hopeless (and hopeful) romantic who believes in the currency of love and relationships, and Summer, a distant woman who lives in the moment and without a hint of emotion.  This contrast makes for some uneasy moments and spontaneity, and the film, filled with good music and a fond affection for Ringo Starr, has an original feel to it. 

"(500) Days Of Summer", which opened today in the U.S. and Canada, provides a hint of both the expected and unexpected -- to call it a romantic comedy wouldn't be wrong at all, but romantic agony and ecstasy is its heart.  Whatever one makes of Mr. Webb's film, it is certainly the most interesting and engaging film on romance to emerge from the Hollywood studio system thus far in 2009.  For some that may not be saying much, but given the track record of Hollywood romance films this year ("Bride Wars", "Confessions Of A Shopaholic", "He's Just Not That Into You", "Ghosts Of Girlfriends Past" among others), it's an encouraging start.  Possibly not since "Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind" has the Hollywood studio system (major or mini-major) brought out a romance story this sincere and heartfelt.

The most impressive aspect of "(500) Days Of Summer" is its script, astutely crafted by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber.  Their screenplay showcases a number of memorable lines of dialogue, and the situations between Summer and Tom have a rawness and stark honesty to them that occasionally disturbs.  Even so, the writers don't appear to intentionally reference the degrees of the pain of human relationships and intimacy that Ingmar Bergmann was so renowned for, even if he's mentioned in the film.  Mr. Neustadter talked recently about modeling the script on his own roller-coaster romance, and the authenticity of what registers is matched only by the performance of Mr. Gordon-Levitt, who makes Tom a pained, conflicted but sanguine innocent in the rules of the love game.  Ms. Deschanel effectively channels a lack of self-awareness into Summer, a mercurial type belying the feelings that make her tick.  It's a good performance within the context of the film and some moviegoers will recognize themselves in Summer, though it's Mr. Gordon-Levitt's Tom that many men (as well as lots of women) will indentify with.

Smart, witty and sharp, "(500) Days Of Summer" plays like a Rolodex of emotion, charm and love -- at 500th sight.

With: Geoffrey Arend, Clark Gregg, Chloe Grace Moritz, Matthew Gray Gubler, Rachel Boston and Minka Kelly.

"(500) Days Of Summer" is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for sexual material and language.  The film's duration is one hour and 36 minutes, but feels longer.

Popcorn Reel Extra: "(500) Days Of Summer" Q&A at the 15th Annual Los Angeles Film Festival.

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