January 13, 2010

Justify My Netflix: (500) Days of Summer

(Like many Netflix customers, I too can get quite lax with the timely watching and returning of my movies, which of course defeats the entire purpose of having a flat-rate rental plan in the first place. To combat that, I am now writing standardized mini-reviews of each and every movie I end up watching through Netflix, both instantly and on DVD. Don't forget, all previous 'Justify My Netflix' reviews can be found on CCLaP's main movie page.)

(500) Days of Summer

Today's movie: (500) Days of Summer, 2009 (Amazon | IMDB | Netflix | Wikipedia)

Why I added it to my queue: Because this low-budget, non-traditional romantic comedy was one of the big sleeper hits of 2009, which always makes me curious about a movie; plus it stars two of my favorite actors currently in Hollywood, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel, both of whom have a great track record as far as what kinds of projects they'll get involved with.

The reality: Almost too clever for its own good...but only almost. Because that's the first thing to know about (500) Days, is that unlike traditional rom-coms, this film oozes quirkiness from its first minute to its last; it's essentially a look at a relationship after it's already fallen apart, with our sad-sack emo hero Tom (Levitt) looking back non-linearly at the highs and lows of his time with mentally unbalanced* ingenue Summer (Deschanel), trying to piece together what exactly led to their breakup in the first place. As such, then, newbie writers Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber throw every low-budget trick in the book at this script, some of which stick and some of which don't, including lots of charming touches involving pop culture (Summer's struggle to remember the theme song from "Knight Rider" is particularly effective), plus a whole lot of magical realism (including my favorite moment of the whole film, when Tom breaks into a Broadway dance number in public after having sex with Summer for the first time). Make no mistake, this is thoroughly and utterly a cutesy rom-com, and those who aren't in a mood for one will spend two hours furiously rolling their eyes; but for those who are in a mood for a romantic comedy, this might possibly be the best one ever made.

Strangest piece of trivia: In the DVD commentary, Neustadter and Weber confess that roughly 75 percent of the script is based on true events from their real lives.

Worth your time? If you're a fan of smart romantic comedies, then definitely

*And speaking of which, there's been a discussion over at Facebook this week concerning how exactly we should think of Summer, anyway, with some people claiming that she's actually the movie's villain -- after all, she makes Tom's life a living hell at a lot of moments, spends the entire relationship whining about how she doesn't want to be in a relationship, then gets freaking married to a near-stranger mere weeks after they break up. As someone who dated a number of women like this in my youth, however, I tend not to see this behavior as villainous, but rather the logical outgrowth of their natural personality; after all, as Tom even admits at the beginning of the film, Summer is one of those people who everyone falls in love with, the kind who's spent her life receiving unmentioned discounts on everything from dinners to rent, and it's just a simple fact that the behavior of such flighty goddesses can turn on a whim, a big part of what makes them flighty goddesses to begin with. All of this would've bothered me a lot more if I had watched this when I was thirty and still dating such women; but now that I'm forty and I'm not, I found Summer's character to be more fascinating and nostalgic than irritating and evil. That said, emo boys, you've been warned!

Filed by Jason Pettus at 8:46 AM, January 13, 2010. Filed under: Movies | Reviews |