#5 – “(500) DAYS OF SUMMER” (2009)
Directed by Marc Webb
Looking back over past romances can be a wholly unchronological affair. Instead of laying them out neatly in front of us from beginning to end our minds (not to mention our hearts) will so often afford them a far more skewed sense of soulful reminiscence and beginning with the inevitable heartbreak will proceed to leapfrog backwards and forwards from moments of exquisite bliss to ones of deep depression all the while frantically searching for the smallest of cracks amidst such beauty and replaying choice moments through the perspective-shifting filter of hindsight.
And it’s this very concept that director Marc Webb evokes so successfully in his debut film, “(500) Days of Summer”, a film that the poster is quick to point out is definitely NOT a love story but simply a story ABOUT love.
To pinpoint precisely what makes the film so truly wonderful it would be oh-so tempting to simply write “I ? ZOOEY DESCHANEL” over and over again on multiple sheets of paper until even Jack Torrance suggested I seek the advice of a shrink. But all joking aside the divine Ms. D is but the sublimely gorgeous icing on an altogether appetising cake with the film coming across as one of the most infectiously entertaining, creative and memorable romantic comedies in many a year.
Structured akin to a romantic version of “Memento” (only minus the amnesia and tattoos!) we begin, unsuprisingly, at the end and immediately discover the worst. In the midst of interminable heartbreak Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is forced to turn to his wiser-than-years younger sister (a potentially clichéd role given considerable dramatical wallop by the awesome Chloë Moretz) to help him get over the loss of Summer Finn, a young girl who, but seventeen short months earlier, had turned his entire world upside down. And thus we leapfrog back to Day 1 to find Tom working at a greeting card company where he first meets Summer and becomes infatuated with her. And so the film continues in such a manner, constantly jumping back and forth so as to juxtapose the exhilarating highs with the soul-crushing lows.
Anchored by ultra-cool performances by Deschanel and Gordon-Levitt the film is consistently inventive, stylish, sweet and witty with the aforementioned structure coming across as far more than simply a clever conceit and adding a great deal more substance, emotional depth and intelligence to what is, ultimately, an age old tale. Witness the glorious scene on Day 35 in which Tom, following a blissful night of romance with Summer, literally dances to work accompanied by a full blown band, expertly choreographed extras, the ebullient refrains of Hall and Oates’ “You Make My Dreams Come True” and an animated bluebird that could quite have easily flown in from a “Snow White” outtake. Arriving at work we see him joyfully hop, skip and jump his way into the lift whereupon we’re catapulted forward to Day 303, the lift reopens and we see Tom forlorn and forsaken once more. Perfectly capturing that rush of unmistakable power, energy and confidence that comes from being in love the scene also features what is quite possibly one of the best Star Wars references of all time.
Strangely enough the simple fact of the parentheses employed in the film’s title initially led to much frustration amongst several critics with Roger Ebert ending his July 2009 review with the statement “Led by Variety, every single film critic whose review I could find has simply ignored that punctuation. Good for them.” And whilst many will surely contest their necessity (co-writer Scott Neustadter has stated that it is an homage to 80’s pop songs that were titled this way) I’ve long considered them as important a part of the film’s overall thematical structure as the skewed chronology of the narrative. For ignoring the simple fact of aesthetics the decision to enclose the number within such grammatical folly serves to heighten the concept of time and the sense that this most memorable of affairs is but a self contained memory that, whilst sure to forever resonate in Tom’s heart and mind, is but a single brush stroke on a far greater canvas.
Yet with or without said punctuation “(500) Days Of Summer” remains an absolute gem, a film that is wonderfully romantic yet deeply honest, truthful and thought-provoking. As the credits roll you’re left with the belief that whether love encompasses days, month or years it is, nonetheless, a truly beautiful thing indeed. Likewise, Tom appears to have finally accepted the fact that fate, coincidence, destiny or the changing seasons notwithstanding every single moment is as precious as the next and every opportunity but a further step in a potentially magical journey.
“I love how she makes me feel, like anything’s possible, or like life is worth it.”
Track #10 – “THERE IS A LIGHT THAT NEVER GOES OUT”
Written by Johnny Marr and Morrissey
(Performed by The Smiths)