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‘(500) Days of Summer’ | Throwback Review: An Honest Truth on Romance

As (500) Days of Summer turns 10 this year, this would be the best time to reflect on one of the best romantic comedies starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel.

I think it’s official. I’m in love with (500) Days of Summer.

I love the originality. I love the romance between its main leads. I love how great the script. I love you it can make you believe in love and hate love at the same time.

Our expectations of love differ from those that believe that it truly exists or those that just despise the baggage to come with it. I’m somewhere in the middle but leaning towards believing in it when the time comes. (500) Days of Summer takes that honest look about the subject to great results when it comes from a movie about love. But as the unseen narrator stated from the beginning, “This is a story of boy meets girl, but you should know upfront, this is not a love story.”

What’s the Story: Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is one hopeless romantics that can’t find love in all the right places. As he works at his boring job as a greeting-card writer, he falls head over heels for Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel), his boss’s new assistant. After she dumps him, Tom reflects on the 500 days they had together trying to figure what went right with them and what went wrong during the relationship.

When this came out, I didn’t pay attention to anything that was coming out of the Sundance Film Festival since I just turned 13 around the time. Strangely enough, I didn’t get the chance to see this when it came out in theaters because it probably wasn’t playing near me. The first time I watched it was when I checked the DVD out from the library two years later and was just in awe with what I just sat through. If I were to travel back in time, I would tell my past self to seek out (500) Days of Summer as it would be proof that independent movies will be massively important in the film industry back then and now.

Some probably won’t think of this as a romantic comedy since it’s all about the break-up. That’s true, but it still has some romantic beats that one would assume just from watching it. It takes the idea of the boy meets girl premise and make it unique and kind of unconventional. The fact that this was told in a non-linear narrative was a smart idea where it jumps back and forth to points of time where their relationship starts off being the perfect thing and later becoming almost toxic.

For example, when Tom talks about what he loves about Summer, a later scene mirrors the exact same thing except it’s about what he hates about her.

“People don’t realize this, but loneliness… is underrated.”- Tom

What I loved about Marc Webb’s style of direction is that he wasn’t going for a glossy look at Los Angeles as it has more of a dry look, which I can’t complain. He doesn’t direct this like any other typical romance where it’s unbelievable at every second; he understands that unpredictability is the key throughout this. When going for a film that’s both a comedy and drama, both of these elements works tremendously, and this is really funny due to the script by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (The Fault in our Stars, The Spectacular Now). This was his first feature film as he was known for music videos at that point. Even though he went on to direct The Amazing Spider-Man series, this is still Webb’s best-directed film in his career when this feels almost like the 2000s answer to Annie Hall but watchable.

If the chemistry between Gordon-Levitt and Deschanel wasn’t able to capture anything special, then this wouldn’t be great at all, if you ask me. Both of them worked so well together, and they play off each perfectly when their characters are having fun to feeling nothing in the end when we learn that they are very different people. Fun fact: This is the second time they’ve worked together since 2001’s Manic. This is the best performance Gordon-Levitt has ever given as his time as an actor. With this and 50/50 two years later, he really just came one of my favorite actors working in Hollywood today. Since we are seeing this from Tom’s perspective, you understand where he’s coming from and how he wants her back after falling apart. The dialogue he’s given are the ones that are both hilarious and truthful.

There’s nobody perfect to play Summer than the always delightful Deschanel. Any perform she gives out may seem the same, but she’s one of the few actresses that can portray the “Manic Pixie Dream Girl”, and that’s acceptable because it’s pretty easy why anyone would fall for her. I personally think this was the role that got Deschanel the job on New Girl, which is one of my all-time favorite shows.

There are two scenes in (500) Days of Summer that are straight-up fantastic in the way the film presented itself: The first being the up bright dance number that occurs after Tom slept with Summer and just feels like he’s on top of the world set to the classic Hall and Oats tune “You Make My Dreams Come True”. The other being the entire Expectations vs. Reality sequence where Tom goes to Summer’s party on the roof and how well this framing device worked to perfection. We all want certain moments to go a certain way, and sometimes it doesn’t end up being right. This scene resonates with me because when you expect something to go one way when dealing want to confess to your crush and it doesn’t go the way your mind pictured, and it’s pretty tough not know what’s next.

What I can say that I took from this is that when any kind of relationship ends, you should always remember the best times you had with the person you used to care about for a said period of time. And though destiny isn’t anything a lot believe in, don’t take it for granted and just hope that everything leads you to the right person or place. Could I say (500) Days of Summer made an impact on me? I wouldn’t say so since I haven’t been in any kind of romantic relationship before. But those that have been through a bad breakup where Tom has can see why the connection is there.

Finding the right person to fall in love with is hard, especially for someone like me. Most of the people I liked were just crushes, and most of them I fully regret. But I still have these expectations about this girl I knew since freshmen year of college, and didn’t realize how cool she was until a year ago. I could’ve asked her out, and everything would be a-okay, but there’s no confidence in me to express how I feel because I know she won’t feel the same way. That was a little off-topic, but I had to get it out there.

Also, the soundtrack shouldn’t be ignored. There are some hits in here that I listened to again just from how good they are, including “Us” by Regina Spektor, “Vagabond” by Wolfmother, and “Sweet Disposition” by The Temper Trap

When I re-watched this and even start thinking about it randomly, it makes me feel hopeful to find somebody that I can truly care about. Though finding “the one” at school won’t happen since I believe one got away, the chances are finding someone perfect for me, or anyone is possible. Not every person is destined to be each other, but we all must hope some form of happiness will occur for everyone. Sharing the same interest like music and whatnot doesn’t indicate the person holds something special. Honestly, it’s hard knowing that one just wants to be friends and other is trying their hardest to understand that.

I was shocked that (500) Days of Summer didn’t get enough award buzz. Sure, it was nominated for two Golden Globes in the Best Motion Picture-Musical or Comedy and Gordon-Levitt, but they didn’t even nominate Deschanel? Who are you kidding nominating Meryl Streep twice?  But the fact that Neustadter and Weber’s screenplay was completely snubbed for Best Original Screenplay at that year’s Oscars was ridiculous. At least they won an Independent Spirit Award.

If you want to watch any romantic that gives you the honest truth about love, this is your moment to check it out if you haven’t. (500) Days of Summer is one of my favorite romantic comedies. It’s fantastic for the indie crowd and should be seen by anyone in general. Funny, heartfelt, and says a lot about what falling in love can bring out of us, what’s not to care for about (500) Days of Summer?

Grade: A-

Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel, Geoffrey Arend, Matthew Gray Gubler, Chloë Grace Moretz, Clark Gregg

Director: Marc Webb|Writer(s): Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber

Runtime: 95 Minutes

Studio: Fox Searchlight

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