"(500) Days of Summer" Film Review
By: Nathaniel Simpson
Marc Webb simply understands relationships. He is able to take a look at the two sides of a relationship, how both of those people's feelings matter and affect the overall relationship as a whole. This is incredibly evident in his 2009 film, "(500) Days of Summer", which is a joyous, fun, and beautiful film that is also moving, heartbreaking, and gut-wrenching all at the same time.
The film revolves around Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a socially-awkward man who simply wants to find someone to share his life with. It seems like his prayers are answered when he meets Summer (Zooey Deschanel), a beautiful woman who is the new receptionist at his job, where he works as a greeting-card writer. They start this whirlwind romance that leads them down all sorts of twists and turns, both of them falling deeper and deeper in love with one another.
However, Summer ends things, causing Tom to fall into a deep depression. He then starts to analyze his relationship with Summer, trying to find out how he can win her back and what went wrong. But, when he keeps trying and keeps failing, he starts to realize that perhaps this was just a growing point for him, and wonders if there is anyone else out there for him.
The thing you will immediately recognize when watching this film is the stylistic filmmaking qualities that Webb possesses. This film is easily not like any other romance film you have seen, and really sets itself apart by presenting a rom-com that is not scared to become depressing or heartbreaking at times. There are moments in this film where I genuinely felt depressed watching it, feeling for the characters that are playing out this story on the screen. However, it simply works so well because Webb wants the viewer to put themselves in the shoes of our characters. From the way he uses quick cuts, imaginary scenarios our characters live out, and the thought process that goes on in Tom's head, it makes the characters seem so much more real and fleshed out on the screen.
There are two major examples I want to point out here. The first is when our characters have sex for the first time. Summer insists she doesn't want anything serious and that she is simply there for some fun. Tom agrees, but the viewer can easily tell that this is not what he has plans. The next morning, he walks out of his apartment to a huge musical number with him in the middle, reflecting his feelings and jubilee about making love with this "girl of his dreams". Webb transports the viewers into Tom's head, allowing them to see how he is really feeling and makes the viewer feel the same way.
The second example happens after Tom and Summer have broken up, and he gets a hopeful invitation to a rooftop party she is having, where he believes they might have a second chance. The scene then plays out in two different frames, one that shows what Tom's expectation is for the party and the reality. They play out heartbreakingly beautifully, relating to the viewer's experience of having their expectations shattered by an event that doesn't go the way you hope it would. This is perhaps the first time I have ever seen this play out on the screen, and I applaud Webb for everything he had crafted here that goes outside the box of what is expected for a film like this.
The movie plays at a very nice pace, showing a slew of moments from pre-relationship, the relationship, and post-breakup. It doesn't follow a linear storyline much, which I think is very beneficial for the story Webb is trying to tell. We don't need to see this classic storyline that shows the formation of a relationship and then the eventual breakup. Webb wants to show these small moments, that are either filled with happiness and love or heartbreak and pulling away. These are what makes the relationship what it is, and I don't think this film could have worked if it was shot in any other way.
Gordon-Levitt and Deschanel are fantastic in their roles, and I simply love both of them here. They have wonderful on-screen chemistry with one another, and do excellent jobs at presenting comedic moments and absolutely heart-shattering scenes. Tom is such a likable character, and Summer is this character that we want to get to know more of, but it seems like we are in the dark for a lot of her motives; this makes sense as we really are coming from Tom's POV. They are definitely some of the best aspects of this movie, and it seems like everything just fell into place for the film.
What I also absolutely adore is the screenplay, which is able to take a look at the main protagonist and shows its flaws. The film desperately wants the viewer to root for Tom and hate Summer, but after a couple of watches, you start to notice that maybe Tom is in the wrong. Maybe this all could have been avoided if he didn't fall head over heels for the girl who didn't want anything serious. But, that is just the human experience. That is the tragic fault of human emotions and feelings, and it is not an exact science. Therefore, even though both characters do things we absolutely hate as a viewer, they are simply both the protagonist here for just being human and having the human experience.
Webb shows how great of a filmmaker he is here, and simply crafts this beautifully stellar film that is easily one of the best romance films on the past fifteen years. It seems like such an easy and simple setup and film, but the movie has such intricate emotions and plot points that elevate this film to a thoughtful talking piece. Webb is able to tap into the emotions and feelings of every viewer that is watching, and he is able to show such thoughts and experiences on the screen in a way no other filmmaker has before. It is hard not to like this film, and I do think this will be a movie that will be studied and appreciated more and more for years to come.