Sundance Movie Review: 500 Days of Summer

(500) Days of Summer is the type of wonderful charming indie romantic comedy that gives you butterflies while you watch it… I hate calling it a romantic comedy. Was Garden State or Juno both indie romantic comedies? Shouldn’t there be a better term for it. I mean, when I think romantic comedy, I think over the top cheesy and formulaic, and 500 Days of Summer is quite the opposite. How about indie emo relationship dramedy? Even that doesn’t sound that great, we need something shorter. I’ll have to think on this one.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as Tom, a greeting card copywriter who believes in love, fate and destiny, and Zooey Deschanel as Summer, the girl he falls in love with, who doesn’t believe in such fantastical concepts. The film begins with a warning that “This is the story of boy meets girl, but this is not a love story”, which is partly a lie. The film takes place during the 500 days of their “relationship”, but is told out of order using an in-genius fragmented framing device. The film begins not with how Tom and Summer met, but their break-up. A break-up which totally devastates Tom and throws him into a deep depression. He keeps thinking back to their 500 days “together” to try to figure out where things went wrong.

But all he can remember are the good times. Why didn’t it work? Why doesn’t she love me? But I love her so much! And like most broken relationships, Tom should have been able to figure it out from the start. When she said that she wasn’t interested in having a serious relationship, he should have realized right then that it might not work. But the feeling of love propels you forward. If you believe someone is your sole mate, than it’s easier not to notice the obvious. You obsess over superficial connections (like say music) and artificial experiences rather than connections of substance.

Wow. Reading over my last paragraph, a rant in itself, makes the film seem like a downer, which it clearly is not. If the story is not a love story, than it is also not about the above paragraph. I would love to tell you that this film wasn’t about a break-up — but it is. I would love to tell you that this is a magical love story (which it kinda is) where “boy meets girl (which happens), boy falls in love with girl (which definitely happens), and they both live happily ever after (which actually also happens, sorta)” but like real life — it’s a bit more complicated than that.

The film was met with a standing ovation at the Eccles theater premiere. Standing-O’s have been happening less and less since I first started coming to the festival in 2004. But after the credits finished rolling up the screen of the Park City High School Auditorium, the 1,270 audience members in attendance were all on their feet, clapping their hands. And the reason why this film got such a great response is because it’s one of those films you instantly fall in love with. Like Juno, Little Miss Sunshine, or Slumdog Millionaire.

First time feature film director Mard Webb has obviously learned a lot about the value of little relateable moments in his former career directing music videos. He also adopts those same skills to take dramatic creative sidesteps which advance the story in a new unique way. One scene features an ambitious dance sequence in the street featuring tons of random pedestrians, a marching band and an animated bird. There is also s dream sequence parody of a black and white french film featuring Tom and friends. But best of all is a brilliant split screen sequence which shows Tom’s expectations of a date on one side of the screen, and the reality on the other.

The film is structured with sporadic fairy tale like narration (imagine something almost like Pushing Daisies) and animated title card clips when inform you of what day out of the 500 Days of Summer you are about to witness. The film features the funniest laugh out loud Star Wars reference ever to be projected on the big screen. The film also features an incredibly hip soundtrack, which has the potential to be 2009′s Juno without the folk indie overload.

500 Days of Summer is the first romantic comedy that everyone can relate to, because everyone has been through this type of relationship. I would like to think up some insanely creative near-hyperbole with adjectives like Wonderful, magical, charming, and somehow including the words must see. But I have yet to get any sleep at Sundance, and its now only day 4. So the best I can do is tell you that you will love this film. And I guess we’ll have to settle for that and the discussion of a new term for indie romcom for later.

/Film Rating: 9 out of 10

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About the Author

Peter Sciretta is a film geek and popcultured fanboy living in Los Angeles. He created /Film in 2005.

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