FILM: Review: (500) Days of Summer

Written by Jordan Petersen on . Posted in Film

A movie about what happens when boy meets girl -- in the real world.

A movie about what happens when boy meets girl (in the real world).

In a more perfect world, I would see every movie I even slightly care to see several days before it’s released and then write a review about it as soon as I left the theater. Unfortunately, this world is far from perfect. And so the local dollar theater gets my frequent patronage, and you get very late reviews.

As I was leaving Provo’s always-hoppin’ Movies 8, I said to the people I was with, “That might be my new favorite romantic comedy.” And it’s running up against some serious heavyweights, like Serendipity, Sleepless in Seattle, and Return to Me. And, actually, I tend to really like a good romantic comedy. I think that there are more great films in that genre than people (dudes, in particular) tend to admit.

The story of “boy meets girl” comes down to earth in this one. But not so far down that the magic is gone, which is what I think is really spectacular about this film. Boy falls desperately in love, and his world turns upon it. We’ve all been there, and it really is all-consuming. And impossible. You’ve probably heard enough about this film by now to know that it doesn’t pan out with boy and girl living happily ever after. Boy doesn’t get girl. Girl doesn’t come around.

And I kind of expected the film to be ultimately unsatisfying. I was expecting to leave the theater with a little bit of frustration, a little bit of love-sick agony, and I was prepared for it. I’m a hopeless romantic, which is why Serendipity has long stood as my favorite romatic comedy. But (500) Days of Summer did not end quite the way I expected it to. In fact, I was a little disappointed — not with the movie, but because I had already written the review in my head when it was about halfway through. I was going to defend (to the death!) the “ideal” of love. There would have gushed forth from my impassioned heart an eloquent case for Tom, and a deep lamentation over Summer — and I would have still loved the film.

But gosh did it prove me wrong. I don’t want to give anything away, but the ending was perfect. Beautiful. It should have been predictable, but the narrative was so elegantly composed that I didn’t expect a thing.

So you’ve guessed, at this point, that I put my thumbs high in the air for the story, but I want to make it clear that the rest of the film was just as strong. This was great filmmaking — the leads were exceptional, and the supporting cast were diminutive, entertaining, honest and believable. The writing was fantastic, and I was blown away by some of the visual/stylistic choices they made. For instance, each scene begins with the denotation of which “day” it is. And it jumps around — 8, 262, 37, 301, etc. — so that it becomes an emotional cue. You start to get the hang of the timeline pretty quickly, so when you see “420″ appear on screen, you know Tom is depressed. Near the end, this motif gets used even more cleverly, to the surprised delight of the audience.

I purposefully chose one of the less significant stylistic choices, so that when you go see this film (go see this film!), you’ll be able to experience the same enjoyment of unexpected genius.

Thank goodness for good movies. But, more than that (by a long, long way), thank goodness for love. (Would you like some wine with that cheese?)

Jordan Petersen is a film correspondent for Rhombus with a curious affinity for cheese.

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