Thursday, 17 September 2009

(500) Days of Summer

So, I haven't done a review in a little while and thought it was about time for another! For reasons I can't quite explain, I was almost beyond excited to see this film. I suppose for one thing I am yet to see a bad review of it, and those I have read described it as a vibrant, touching little indie movie - my kind of film-nutshell! I was also attracted to the story's twist, when so much of Hollywood tells us that when you meet 'the one' you just know it instantly, you know they are the only person who can make you happy. So what happens when 'the one' doesn't actually feel the same way? What if someone's 'one' was the other person's casual relationship? This is the case with Tom and Summer, the girl who filled 500 of Tom's days.

The witty tone that runs throughout the film is there from the off, before you have even seen any characters or any credits. There is a disclaimer stating that the film's content is purely fictional and any similarity of characters or events is purely coincidental. Well that's fair enough, right? And then, 'Especially you Jenny Beckman. Bitch.' Ouch! With an outlook like that, and a warning from a God-like narrator that 'this is a story of boy meets girl, but it is not a love story', you start to get the idea that this is a bit different from the usual films frequented by Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts. Finally.

Now, after seeing the disclaimer and seeing the brief flashback of Tom and Summer's childhoods I was a little worried that this could be a totally bitter portrayal of one of the writer's failed relationships, changing Jenny Beckman-the-bitch's name to Summer and exorcising his demons. But it is kind of refreshing to see that, even though she breaks Tom's heart, it is not because Summer is a bitch; she was actually very upfront about what she did and did not want from the relationship. Whilst the majority of the film centres on Tom; his feelings, his point of view, his reaction after the break up, you still get to see enough of Summer's side of it so that you don't hate her. As in life, they both have their faults. In terms of gender roles and stereotypes this is a bit of a quirk on the general trend, and it is both refreshing and interesting to notice how 'normal' the film would be if the roles were reversed.

Another aspect setting the film apart from the rest is it's non-linear structure. I loved this. You see the excitement of Tom's first glimpses of Summer directly juxtaposed with the wreck she left him when their relationship ended. The things he loved become the things he hates. I have read that the structure is supposed to show how certain memories are triggered by small things, like a card, or a song, and how Tom constantly re-runs events with Summer to try and see where it all went wrong. The audience and Tom have to piece it all together until it makes sense, and this can only happen once Tom takes his little sister's advice - not to just look at the good memories, the bad ones are just as important.

Coupled with the non-linear structure are the film's occassional quirky effects and tangents, they all reinforce Tom's feelings and are appropriate to his character, but have been done in ways I had never really seen before. I won't give them all away, but there is a certain dance sequence following a certain event that had me literally crying with laughter! Another scene I think really captures something I imagine most of us are guilty of - having our expectations of a certain situation shattered so completely by what turns out to be the reality. Universal experiences like this are what make the film so relatable, and you just know that genuine feeling and real experiences have been poured into the script to be able to come up with it. In my opinion this is what so many films are lacking at the moment, if people made films because they really believed in them then the quality would be so much higher.

Now, I cannot write about this film any longer without mentioning the soundtrack that it has been widely commended for. Music features in the storyline itself as it is Tom and Summer's mutual liking for The Smiths that gives the first spark to their relationship, so their songs often crop up, as well as a mix of Wolfmother, Regina Spektor, Doves and Feist - to mention a few - and also, my 'song of the moment', The Temper Trap's 'Sweet Disposition', and the fact that it is in the film makes me love the film and the song even more!...But I do realise that's probably just me...

With the heavy influence of The Smiths, along with the characters' vintage indie dress sense, there is an interesting mix of old and new, giving a sense of nostalgia to a modern world. I liked this effect in 'Donnie Darko', and I suppose here it is presumably for the benefit of those who can still vaguely remember their first love, or 'the one that got away', and the clothes and music help to travel back and remember that time.

So, if you hadn't guessed it, I kinda liked this film! Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt fit the roles perfectly, there are great songs and quirks galore, and anyone can relate to it, the perfect film if you are happily in a couple, have just been dumped, or are still optimistically on the lookout for 'the one'. Just remember, it might not be who you think.

500 Days of Summer - 5/5

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