Tuesday, August 18, 2009
500 Days of Bummer
"This is not a love story. It's a story about love....the convenient kind of love, where the woman tramples the man for sport so that she walks away feeling both victimized and empowered."
500 Days of Summer is depressing as all hell. There's really not much more to say about this movie from a critical stand point beyond that. Every guy has lived this film personally, and seeing it recreated on the screen is like watching yourself die in a car accident. From a technical standpoint however, there's a veritable goldmine of material to discuss.
Most notably, the movie plays like a TV show. From it's smug narration to it's consistent use of chyron's tracing many of the 500 days that Tom, played by Joseph Gordon Levitt, spends with Summer (Zooey Deschanel). Yes, her name is Summer. I too was confused at first, wondering how many years it would take to total 500 actual days of summer. Anyway, it almost feels like a bad CBS sitcom. The story, while linear, is told out of sequence. This leads to several juxtaposed scenes exactly opposite in nature. She loves me, she loves me not. It allows you to feel hope for Levitt's character, then lose it in an instant. A proverbial fuck you from the filmmakers, manipulating your emotions so carelessly you wonder if they didn't create some diabolical equation to make the movie cut you deeper with each passing scene.
Essentially, the movie is a tease. But not the good kind, the kind that ends tragically. The real kind. The Shakespearean kind. The kind of love we think we've all had, the "first love." The one that doesn't work. The one that ends up being so manipulative that just sitting through the movie is like watching yourself on home video. Like a team watching footage after a losing football game. You see your errors, your flaws, your mistakes refined under a microscope staring back at you. You begin to wonder: am I this stupid? Have I made these mistakes?
The answer, very plainly, and very simply, is yes. Yes, you have.
And perhaps thats what's so unsettling about this film. It's almost so authentic from a male point of view that you can't help but want to leave in the middle of it. Because you've seen this before- you've lived this before. And you know it's not going to end well. From making a mixtape, to sharing your personal hobbies, interests and passions with someone who later turns them against you...it's hearbreaking. And it's because of that reason that I hated this movie going experience.
But before I completely banish this movie to the island of tragically hip films (currently inhabited by Garden State and The Time Traveler's Wife*), there is one positive moment that is not only worth mentioning, it almost redeems the entire film in a matter of 3 minutes. The scene occurs immediately after Tom sleeps with Summer for the first time. And again, it's a feeling we all know. Tom leaves his apartment on top of the world, and in his mind, everything is clicking. They take a literal interpretation of that and add an entire city of choreographed dancers that somehow all know the routine. Call me a musical theater queen, but this is easily the best moment in the movie. But maybe it's just because Hall & Oates "You Make My Dreams" is the soundtrack to the scene.
All in all though, this is a bad date movie, a terrible love story, and almost too real to ever revisit on DVD. And if you're recently single, forget about it. But Levitt shines (as he always does), and Deschanel maintains that air of "I'm an aloof bitch" perfectly. It's well cast, well acted, and too real to be enjoyable. If anything, 500 Days of Summer reminds you that you don't always want your life to be like a movie.
*I've never seen The Time Traveler's Wife but I can only assume it would annoy the hell out of me. Garden State is an easy pick though. That movie stinks worse than Grandma's underpants. Your grandma, not mine.