500 Days of Summer
Zooey’s looking at him but thinking of me … I wish.

Golden Mug

Original Screenplay (Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber)
Editing (Alan Edward Bell)

Best Picture
Director (Marc Webb)
Best Score (Mychael Danna & Rob Simonsen)
Best Cinematography (Eric Steelberg)

Theatrical Release Date: 07/17/2009
Director: Marc Webb
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel, Geoffrey Arend, Chloe Moretz, Matthew Gray Gubler, Clark Gregg, Minka Kelly

Every year, a film sneaks up and captures my attention. For me, it’s usually a small indie film that revolves around melancholy, heartbreak and/or death. Festival darling “(500) Days of Summer” somehow manages to blend its share of heartbreak (thereby peaking my interest) along with a strong sense of romance and optimism … two things that don’t normally work for me.

Touting itself as a “a story of boy meets girl … however, it’s not a love story”, screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber go about crafting a film that crosses the line between romantic comedy and anti-romantic comedy. Many of the familiar Rom-Com elements are here – sure to help audiences follow along; However, at nearly every turn, the convention is bent on its ear, either via the inclusion of fantasy elements or the film’s time-jumping methodology (which works really well actually).

Director Marc Webb is to be commended, especially in light of this being his first feature film. The movie carries just the right tone and thanks to the script and the actors, what could have been a very pretentious and annoying setup comes off as natural and genuine. This is especially highlighted through a dance sequence pulled off by Gordon-Levitt that put a big, goofy grin on my face and a wonderfully executed split screen sequence comparing expectations with reality. Touches like these are easy to foul up but Webb and company make it all work.

To that point, Joseph Gordon-Levitt pulls off another fantastic performance. What makes it so impressive is putting it in context with the superb work he’s been putting in these last few years in a number of very different roles. Rather than get pigeon-holed as the likable sap he shot to fame as in “Third Rock from the Sun” or “10 Things I Hate About You”, he’s navigated a string of excellent films like “Mysterious Skin“, “Brick” and “The Lookout“.

In “(500) Days of Summer”, his character spends much of the time as the lovesick puppy. He’s a good guy and fairly cool but his ability to stand up for himself is almost non-existent. Gordon-Levitt plays this without a shred of resistance and as he gains self-confidence, slowly ramps up into the man that he’s wanted to be rather than the guy he’s been stuck as for so many years.

Obviously, the film doesn’t work unless the romantic partner also does their job and Zooey Deschanel was very well suited for this role. Now, I once again have to admit that her characters tend to all blend together. She’s constantly playing the dry witted, quirky hipster that breaks hearts and gets to sing a song at some point. This happens once again here but I’m so smitten with her that I honestly don’t care. I think it works in the context of this film and there are moments here that are reminiscent of her finest work in “All the Real Girls”. If you’re a fan of hers, her performance will resonate with you … if you don’t like her, then I can see how this film might be more challenging to enjoy.

The supporting actors are also well cast, with Geoffrey Arend, Chloe Moretz, Matthew Gray Gubler, Clark Gregg and Minka Kelly all adding to the mix. They manage to flesh out the world that Joseph Gordon-Levitt lives in and attempt to help with the emotional maelstrom that is his 500 days of Summer.

Another high point for the film is the music. Andrea von Foerster helmed the crew responsible for gathering some really great songs to punch up both comedic moments (Patrick Swayze’s “She’s Like the Wind”) and finding relatively new bands like Australia’s The Temper Trap and their song “Sweet Disposition” for increasing the swoon factor. Needless to say, the soundtrack is currently on repeat in my car.

“(500) Days of Summer” is a great date movie but also a wonderful experience for those of us who have had that one great love in life and constantly look back on that experience to see how it shaped who we are today. After repeated viewings, I still absolutely love this film and will be anxiously awaiting the Blu-ray release (I need Hi-Def, it’s an addiction). I suppose that if I weren’t so enthralled with the production, I might not give it the perfect score but it will be held near and dear to my heart for a long time to come and so I’m bestowing a 5 out of 5. It manages to avoid being pretentious while still pushing to be as clever and hip as the Sundance hit it became … something so many other films fail to do (“The Wackness“, “Away We Go“).

Simply put, see this film. If you need to see “Harry Potter 6” first, that’s fine. Then go have some lunch, muggle it out and get back in the theater for “(500) Days of Summer”.