Life And Love During '500 Days Of Summer'
Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel star in a quirky indie film greater than
the sum of its quirks. (photo courtesy Fox Searchlight)
"(500) Days of Summer" is not your typical boy-meets-girl romcom. It's not a traditional love story; in fact, it's not a love story, as the film itself warns. It's more like a 500-day diary of a relationship gone awry, with memories and fantasies clashing with reality--except the entries are comically out of order.
First-time feature director Marc Webb and co-writers Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber create a postmodern love story, one where the girl is unable to commit and the boy is head-over-heels infatuated, so much so he can help but break into dance. Oh, and does he dance.
Meet Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). He's a copy writer for a greeting card company, which matches his outwardly whimsical outlook on life. Tom believes in love. And the musical stylings of the '80s rock group The Smiths.
Meet Summer (Zooey Deschanel). She's the office assistant. Divorced parents. Pessimistic. Doesn't believe in love or imagination or sunshine and flowers. She's also a fan of The Smiths.
Meet Tom and Summer. They both listen to The Smiths. And with that, the makings of a couple begin to creep to the surface.
But the duo is doomed from the start. Tom wants a serious relationship. Summer wants causal.
Day 288: Summer thinks they should stop seeing each other. They're Sid and Nancy, she says. They're always fighting. "I hardly think I'm Sid," says Tom, citing the fact that Sid stabbed Nancy. "No, I'm Sid!" Summer claims.
So begins the ups and downs of their relationship: the dates, the goofiness, the destruction. From Day 1 (Tom meets Summer) to Day 188 (Tom loves Summer's laugh and her heart-shaped birthmark) to Day 322 (Tom hates Summer and her cockroach shaped birthmark), the film captures the beautiful quirks of a relationship through straightforward and unconventional terms.
Day 321: Tom's greeting cards begin to suffer. "Roses are red. Violets are blue. F*** you, whore."
The strength of the film lies in its ability to transcend what could have been an unoriginal story about the last laps of a stale romance. Instead, it illustrates how one recovers from losing a significant other, and in turn, how the relationship has shaped the person as he or she moves forward.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is an utter charm as Tom; his happiness flows off the screen when Tom is elated with love, and his sadness does the same. He provides the hearty laughs and illuminating comedic thunder throughout the film, making it difficult to ever question Tom's sanity. Zooey Deschanel, too, radiates off the screen. No matter how frustrating Summer becomes, the audience never wonders why Tom is so enamored with her essence.
Together, Gordon-Levitt and Deschanel have the chemistry of an old Hollywood romance. A sequence where Tom and Summer play house in an Ikea store perpetuates a classic fairytale in moving picture. Friends since "Manic" (2001), they both believe their friendship contributed to the connection made on-screen.
The visuals of the film are as unconventional as the plot. Black and white picture, movies within movies, spilt screens, and silent film are all used to show the ultimate collapse of a relationship, while at the same time showing the uprising of Tom's professional aspirations.
The music, which had the potential of being its own character, encompasses classic indie rock, almost becoming a hipster's guide to life. With the musical genius of Regina Spektor, The Smiths, Doves, Feist, and Simon & Garfunkel, the soundtrack drives the story to its destination.
"[We were able to] choose the music before we did the movie, which allowed us to use it in a more prominent and effective way," said Webb during a question-and-answer session after the movie screened at the Los Angeles Film Festival.
The script is dynamic, fresh, and intoxicatingly real, which co-writers Webber and Neustadter credit to the fact that the idea came from a real life experience.
"Scott [Neustadter] went through a [relationship] ... as a close friend, witness and writing partner, I was there as a friend and I also said, 'We should be writing this down.' We wrote it down. Scott e-mailed me late at night, and from the very beginning, [wanted] to tell it out of order. It was how we remembered relationships. I don't think anyone remembers it in a linear way. It was how memory works," said Webber.
Neustadter said at first, however, he wasn't ready to tell the story to other people.
"We were very proud of what we had written, but at the same time, I was semi-embarrassed by the personal nature of it," he said.
Deschanel and Levitt said they were both attracted to the freshness of the script.
"It was one of the most entertaining scripts I've read in a long time," said Deschanel.
"I found myself up and on my feet. Trying to say the words aloud, and that's always a sign," said Levitt.
As for whether the real-life ex-girlfriend read the script? Neustadter laughed.
"I gave the script to the individual in question to make sure it was gonna fly. She read it and her response was amazing. She said, 'Wow, I am so much like Tom.' She related so much to the Tom character!" Neustadter said with mock rage.
He continued: "She hasn't seen it. She lives in Europe, so she's not gonna see it for awhile."
Shame. "(500) Days of Summer" is one film I'd commit to.
"(500) Days of Summer" opens in select theaters on July 17th.