Saturday, July 25, 2009

Sadly a Squalor: M and 500 Days of Summer


500 Days of Summer
was supposed to be different; a new, refreshing indie love story, beautifully filmed, well written, and starring some of my favorite actors with an interesting premise. It seemed chock full of great moments, not unlike some of my other favorite movies, a male version of Amelie. Instead, it left me wondering why we were wasting so much time on such an unworthy subject, and sorely disappointed in the obvious attempt at creativity that made the movie fall flat.

The film starts with a hilarious and intriguing author’s note dedicating the film to a girl who the author describes as “bitch.” But within the first few minutes the movie begins on the course that destroys it in the end. When we are first introduced to Summer (Zooey Deschanel), the girl that Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) falls for, the narrator begins to describe the “Summer Effect” an occurrence that all males are evidently well experienced in. Apparently, the girl at the center of the “Summer Effect,” is abnormally attractive to all men because she has mildly indie rock music tastes that include the Smiths and Belle and Sebastian and is fairly pretty, but dresses slightly more on the quirky side of normal. Most of the girls in the theater around me could be described in the same way. The description hardly felt intriguing and I was left unconvinced of the "specialness" of this particular girl.

From here on, the movie tries to tell us that Summer is a “free” individual. She doesn’t pander to others, but remains entirely true to herself and to her own wishes while Tom is far below her because he can’t entirely let himself go. Even though the film warned us in the beginning that this girl was a “bitch,” the end of the film did not express the anger that would have redeemed it and brought it full circle. We were supposed to love her, just as Tom but it became impossible to do so. As in most romance movies, Tom is eventually destroyed by their relationship, but finds himself and realizes his true potential because he’s experienced the “Summer Effect” and is thus able to become free himself. Suddenly, her harsh behavior is forgiven since she was the impetus for his change. I kept thinking of the Family Guy clip that unfortunately I can't find, where they spoof an episode of Dharma and Greg. Dharma stands on the kitchen table and looks dumbly around while Greg says, "Oh Dharma, you're such a free spirit."


I have a lot of trouble with movies like this, including Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind where quirkiness and freedom become excuses for a character to morph into a person you’d never want to be around in a million years. This is the type of girl (or guy) you might fall in love with at 16 in suburban high school when you’re looking for an escape, only to find that even though she listens to the Smiths and wears Doc Martens, there’s nothing beneath the surface. The film, just like that high school relationship becomes extremely disappointing once you realize this superficiality. It would have been one thing if the film was trying to convey that type of experience, but it was shooting for something entirely different, exploring the meaning of "soul mates," fate, and true love.

The film was well acted. I really felt something between Gordon-Levitt and Deschanel who sink perfectly into character and salvage the film despite its flaws, making me remember for a brief moment what it's like when you first fall in love. It also looked hip and pretty, rocked an awesome soundtrack, and included some great moments, and a well written script. But it was further brought down by the odd pacing. The film jumped back and forth between the good and bad days of the relationship, but it couldn’t decide whether it wanted to create a rhythm to that editing or just jump freely in time, making it feel awkward and loose.

I can't say I hated the film, and if you don't mind watching a girl like Summer work her charm and mystical indie hipster-ness, this one's for you. But all things considered, I'd wait for Netflix.

2 out of 5

Read more from M @ Bubbly

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