(500) Days of Summer
Directed by Marc Webb
Starring Zooey Deschanel, Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Fox Home Entertainment
Release Date: December 22, 2009
The omniscient narrator declares that what we are watching is not a love story, but a story about love. An odd little twist that brings a kind of assurance and authenticity to (500) Days Summer. Once this statement is solidified early on in the film it makes us view the movie in a slightly different way and rightfully so. An original narrative technique is what the film has going for it. It disregards a linear story line but never capitalizes on the true potential the script really has. Many films use discombobulated narratives that are fragmented and dislocated to resemble the emotions its characters are feeling. The split screens and split narratives are too much imbued within stylistic ploys, making each scene that carries these fashionable devices incompetent and never availing.
Screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, along with the innovative mind of director Marc Webb, may have dislocate the narrative a tad too much and haven’t peered thoroughly enough into the emotional angst of Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a greeting card writer, who is in love with Summer (Zooey Deschanel), his coworker. This is Tom’s story he tells to his two friends and little sister, in a way that isn’t chronological, his mishaps and successes he has experienced with Summer throughout the 500 days he believed he loved her.
Not so much is the film worried about the necessities that go along with a relationship picture; the clichés, paint-by-number arguments, the woman wanting the stable relationship, and the predictable endings that could be seen even before the film starts. Mr. Webb seems to be rebelling against conventional Hollywood romantic dramas/comedies by telling a story that focuses on what love actually is when equated to reality; hectic, confusing, unstable, and uncertainty. Let’s face it, love isn’t always experienced in a state of perpetual bliss or perfection. Contentment all the time doesn’t seem plausible in (500) Days of Summer, a film that blatantly delivers more heartache than happiness.
Mr. Webb, in order for him to establish this unconventional portrait of a young relationship experiencing the ups and, more obsessively, the downs, he needs actors who can inhabit his environment, which isn’t so much melodramatic than it is esoteric, freely and most comfortably. Levitt and Deschanel each carry the appearance (the sad, blank faces and brooding demeanor) to magnify the unconventionalities the film throws at us. Their characters look as though nothing is taking place internally. Both call to mind 60s Bohemian artists (the crackling and witty dialogue) searching drearily for the meaning of life, which according to Tom can only be discovered through love. This is what makes Webb’s film watchable, even due to its shortcoming.
It is enjoyable to watch both Tom and Summer lavish in their glory days, and both seem to be ideally matched for each other when it comes to their external feelings. They go singing at a karaoke bar, display imagination in IKEA, enjoy the same music and relax in park. The camera just watches the two experiencing happiness, never forcing or even trying to get permission to enter internally into the two. Webb gives us glimpses of these happy times when he just showcased an argument between the two. It will seem a little odd and it is. That’s his and the film’s ploy; processing the love blooming and then faltering. Back and forth. Back and fourth. The issue is that true love never is allowed to evolve into something we can care about. Once the familiarity of this premise settles in, our liking towards it becomes less and less enthusiastic. By the half way point in this world of relinquished clichés the enthralling factor is at an all-time high, but as it progresses the film never shifts to a deeper and more affecting tone. The characters, though externally they’re expressing their desires, seem hollow on the insides.
The fragmented narrative, working miracles at first, soon becomes elusive, further and further distancing itself from the viewers. (500) Days of Summer”realizes its main priority isn’t the routine steps of a romantic comedy, but more attuned to a kind of picture that studies the external moods of its characters. It appears at first to do just that but then begins its decent from the miraculous to the redundant by wearing itself out to the point where the conceit becomes a mere gimmick that becomes cheap and tiresome.
High Definition Picture: (500) Days of Summer”is presented in a washed out color palette, representing, rightfully, the tone that the picture has. Grays, blacks and browns insinuate pain and depression. Never do they disintegrate or lead the viewers’ eye astray to a hazy state where colors mix match and blend into one. The light colors (pale yellows, orange and whites), though, prove to be too bright at times, making a particular scene too illuminated resulting in blurriness while the rest of the picture remains clear. The film’s contrast is uncharacteristically high, resulting with the picture being unbalanced. Clarity isn’t a problem when outdoors, where naturalistic elements get the full treatment. The scene when Tom is singing his Disney-esque number outside in a park surrounded by cartoon birds is the disc’s best scene. The blues from the sky and water fountain are perfectly intact and the greens that accompany it aren’t disregarded either. The blues and greens radiate profoundly.
Special Features: Commentary; Director Marc Webb, screenwriter Neustadter and Weber, with actor Levitt giving insightful commentary on the film.
Last Days of Summer: Deleted and Extended Scenes: HD: 15mins: A lot of deleted scenes. With the audio commentary from Webb, Weber and Levitt it only gets more interesting with each passing scene.
Blu-Ray Exclusive Features
Not a Love Story: Making (500) Days of Summer HD: 29mins: Information on how the movie was jumpstarted and designed. Cast members make their way in and out of the picture to display some little known information about the film’s production process.
Summer at Sundance HD: 14mins: Webb presents his journey to Sundance Film Festival; where his film premiered. He talks about the process the film went through and how he managed to get it to the famous film festival. Levitt makes an occasional appearance. Webb discloses that he used to work at this festival sometime ago.
Auction Tapes SD: 7mins: The film’s taped auditions.
Summer Storyboards SD: 4mins: Storyboard and film comparisons.
“Bank Dance” Directed by Marc Webb: SD: 4mins- Music video of Zooey’s song. Despite it being in SD she still knocks me for a loop. Great singing.
Mean’s Cinemash: “Sid and Nancy/(500) Days of Summer” HD: 3mins: Zooey and Levitt acting as Sid and Nancy.
Music Video: Sweet Disposition by the Temper Trap SD: 4mins- Another music video that doesn’t really show anything special.
Conversations with Zooey and Levitt SD: 12mins The two do the conventional Q&A about the film.
Filmmaking Specials SD: 11mins: Director Webb discusses the casting of the film and the way the film looks. Plus, two other special features labeled “Fox Movie Channel Presents, In Character with Zooey Deschanel” and “Fox Movie Channel Presents, In Character with Joseph Gordon-Levitt.”
The Movie: ** out of ****
Special Features: **1/2 out of **** (too much SD with Blu-Ray exclusive supplements)
High-Definition: *** out of ****