A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 500 – (500) Days of Summer

(500) Days of Summer – July 13th, 2011

We’ve been saving this movie for today. After totally dropping the ball with 300 and watching it well before movie #300 we needed to be more careful, so we calculated what day the 500th day of our project would be and popped today’s date onto it. Coincidentally it also happened to fall in the summer. We considered watching it last summer and kept forgetting about it when we poked through out list to pick something out. And then we said “Duh, 500th day! It’s in the summer anyhow!” Not that this movie actually has much to do with the season, but it worked for us.

At the outset of the movie the narrator tells us to be certain that this is not a love story. Sure, fine, not in the conventional sense of the term. It’s not a romance. But it is a love story in that it is a story about love. A story about what love is and what it is believed to be. It’s not sappy and it’s not tragic. It just is. It’s more the sort of love story regular people live every day than the sort of love story written by people like Nicholas Sparks. It’s not epic or sweeping or dramatic or grand. And I love that about it. It is ordinary. For all of its quirkiness, it is refreshingly regular. Normal. Every-day.

The movie’s conceit is that it tells its story over the course of 500 days, and as the story unfolds the scenes flip back and forth through those days. It’s not entirely non-linear. It doesn’t randomly pick days to show us, completely out of order. Instead it starts near the end, then flips back to the beginning, then shows us scenes juxtaposed back to back so we can see just where things have gone and where they were. I think I would have liked it a little more non-linear, but I can see why it was structured in the way that it was and the amount of hopping back and forth does add a nice dimension to the film. It takes what might otherwise have been a story about a relationship and its ups and downs and makes it say something a little more. It’s not necessarily the specific story here that’s important. It’s the moments within it. Taking them in a shifted order makes the focus on the moments, not on the larger picture.

It is the story of a young man named Tom and how he has always believed in true love and love at first sight and finding the love of your life and never letting go. And one day at work Tom meets Summer and she is, he believes, his true love. The thing is, Summer has a very different outlook on love and she’s not looking for what Tom is looking for. What makes this whole disastrous story work is the structure. Because otherwise I’d expect it to be all woe woe woe is Tom. Instead the movie makes it crystal clear that things were doomed from the start. He even has a moment near the end when he has his own flashbacks, which are the movie’s flashbacks, and he can see how doomed it was. He was infatuated. She wasn’t. It never could have worked.

What I really like here is that both Tom and Summer come off as essentially good people who are wonderfully compatible in many ways, but not when it comes to love. They start talking because of similar music tastes. They go out together and go to movies together and they have fun. The only iffy feelings I get from either of them are from Tom’s initial incredibly horrible attempts to flirt with Summer. It’s the sort of painful awkwardness that leaves me squriming. But that’s the point. It’s supposed to only be sort of charming because he’s so painfully inept and you want him to succeed in this but you don’t want him to at the same time because you were already told it’s doomed. You saw it too. Because right at the beginning of the movie – in a scene from late in their 500 days – Summer breaks up with Tom, likening them to Sid and Nancy (she’s Sid, he’s Nancy, and she does not say this to be edgily cute). And earlier still in the movie, and later in the days, Tom’s little sister comes to his apartment at the behest of his best friends to try and help out in the wake of the breakup. Doomed.

But oh, is it sweet while it lasted. We get bits and pieces of what made Tom so hopeful at the outset and what kept Summer with him even though she wasn’t looking for a relationship or a boyfriend or any strings whatsoever. She was looking for something casual. She wasn’t looking for love and she didn’t find it. Not with Tom. But they did have a good time. A good quirky time. And you know, there’s a lot of people who pooh-pooh quirky stuff like this is being ridiculous but I don’t think it is. Every couple, every pair, every group of friends has their own quirks and idiosyncrasies. And I enjoy Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel as Tom and Summer. They’re cute without being cutesy. Which is pretty much how I think of the whole movie.

I think the closest I can come to criticism for this is similar to what one of my issues with Punch Drunk Love was, though since I enjoyed this and hated that it’s obviously not a deal-breaker. I just felt like really, Summer was an object here. The story is Tom’s. You see what he’s doing when Summer isn’t there. You see his misery. And then there’s Summer, who’s had things happen in her life but we weren’t privy to them. The story isn’t hers. Then again, I think that’s part of the point here, and that’s why it succeeded where Punch Drunk Love failed. Because it’s not really the movie’s problem, it’s Tom’s problem. He seems Summer not as a person so much as a goal. As something to attain and something that will make him happy. Not someone – something. And meanwhile Summer is clearly off having a life, with other friends and events and her world does not revolve around him. I do hope that was intentional. If it was, job well done. If it wasn’t, then I’m grumbly.

Overall I have to say I quite enjoyed this movie. It had some nice characterization and it handled some potentially difficult moments well. It presented a romantic comedy in a way that made it not a romantic comedy and therefore made it thoroughly watchable instead of cringe-inducing. It twisted the character tropes and plot cliches around and turned them on their heads. The device used for the last scene might be a little trite, but I’m willing to forgive it in light of the rest of the movie.

July 13, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment

(500) Days of Summer

Oh. My. Ghod! Movie number 500 tonight!

July 13, 2011

(500) Days of Summer

Do you know what I enjoy? I enjoy quirky romantic dramedies. I enjoy non-linear storytelling. I enjoy Joseph Gordon-Lovett and Zooey Deschanel. In short – I enjoy movies like this.

Probably what I liked most about this movie was that it did such a great job defying my expectations. There are certain things that one assumes will be true in a romantic comedy about a boy and girl getting together, and even though the opening narration for this movie states outright that this is not a love story I found myself still trying to figure out how the inevitable happy ending was going to come about. I liked that this movie had the strength to tell what feels both like an honest story about what happens when a relationship doesn’t work and a tale of romantic possibilities.

This is the story of Tom, who still believes in true love and soul mates, and Summer, who is too young and beautiful to be as bitingly cynical as she actually is. It’s about how they briefly had a wonderful thing going and about what went wrong.

We know that something went wrong because the movie is sort of told from both ends. Early on in the movie we see things falling apart. We see the sad attempts to re-live happier moments before we get to see the happier moments that they’re references to. It lends a sense of pre-ordained tragedy to the movie that we know how things are going to end up – with Tom smashing plates in disconsolate misery. Even so, that’s around day 400, and we know there’s 500 days, so maybe in spite of the opening there is hope for this couple.

This movie is kind of about hope. The undying hope of that hopeless romantic Tom in the face of Summer’s assertion that love doesn’t actually exist. She repeatedly tells him she wants just to be friends, but confuses things by kissing him in the copy room and lying naked in his bed. She’s interested just in having a good time without assigning any labels to it. (Says Tom’s eccentric pal and co-worker McKenzie “Oh, my god, she’s a dude!”)

We mostly see events from Tom’s perspective, which means we get to meet his friends McKenzie (who hasn’t had a girlfriend in years) and Paul (who has had the same girl since grade school) and his awesome and wise far beyond her years sister Alison. They all try to help him as best they can, but he’s caught up in his own issues.

This was exactly the kind of quirky fun movie I thought it was going to be. I will admit that it went to some darker places than I had anticipated, but I appreciated that as well. It reminded me a lot of Amelie – a magical tale of romance, only with a more cynical core. I was tempted, once we were done watching it, to put in Closer as a follow-up, that also being a dramedy with a strange attitude towards the passing of time, but I knew that would just depress me. As it was this was the perfect 500th movie for our daily project.

July 13, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment