Thursday, July 30, 2009

Review: (500) Days of Summer

At our review site Love & Squalor, M. already covered indie rom com (500) Days of Summer pretty thoroughly as a decent film mired in mild annoyances and complicated by lackluster final moments. Generally, I agree, though perhaps more vehemently in either direction. That is to say: i truly enjoyed watching the film, but the more i think about the characters, the more i'm irritated (for reasons which will be explained).

Chapter 1: The Film.
One day after watching the formulaic, charisma-less Hollywood schlock machine The Ugly Truth, (500) Days of Summer was a welcome shift. While its allusions were relatively shallow and its magical moments a cutesy force feed on behalf of director Marc Webb, they worked with the characters and were easy to swallow. Webb constructs a fairly solid balance between the temporal shifts pre, during, and post a one-sided relationship between an underachieving greeting card writer(Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who really, is always pretty good) and a girl who seems content to be an executive assistant, though she's supposedly the ultimate free spirit (Zooey Deschanel). For the most part, this is a playful little film that's a welcome change in a season weighed down by heavy actioners and big budget star-studded vehicles. Undoubtedly, it will be a sleeper hit in spite of its shoddy narration and illogical conclusion. I watched it with a smile on my face and was consistently entertained. It's safe to say this is the next (and a peppier) Garden State for teens and twentysomethings with an underdeveloped film education and a penchant for relating to sad British pop lyrics a little too closely. Basically: if you're 21, High Fidelity is in your all time top 5 movies/books, and you've never encountered French New Wave cinema....prepare to fall madly, madly, in love. See this movie before you move back into the dorms next semester, because there's a strong chance that if you go to a liberal arts college, your roommate will likely have the mini-poster over his/her desk. Four years ago, i may have been the culprit. Which leads us to chapter two.

Chapter Two: Personal Issues.
In which i shirk the objective, cross the boundaries of celluloid, climb up on my ivory tower, and tell you i have developed a beef with these fictional characters. That's right. A beef. A beef which cannot be judged because the real-life versions of the characters themselves, Tom & Summer, would likely take up similar arms if confronted with this display. My complaint is this: I have met these characters before. I know them. I know them well. Neither side is that interesting, neither side that quirky, but both sides will now go forth and spawn less interesting clones that will only make me miserable (yes, this is all about my own personal tolerance, i am THAT selfish). Let's break it down.

1. The Toms - Essentially, Tom represents the type of guy i typically go for. A little bit awkward, musically preoccupied, covers up band t-shirts with corduroy blazers, and who has a whole back catalogue of pop culture references to work with. There are two types of that guy though. The one who is that way because he can't help it and the one who tries really hard to be that guy. The problem with this Tom is that, in reality, he's just a guy with mildly indie musical tastes who ascribes too much meaning onto Morrissey's clever wordplay and loves, loves, loves, being in love. Or, perhaps, more accurately, loves being in love with someone who can't love them, and then loves feeling like a brooding romantic. These guys are always charming. It's hard not to like them. But, my god, can they become insufferable! When they're in love they're "invincible", even when you're sitting there counting down the seconds til they crash and burn, and when it doesn't work out? Prepare for the fallout. Have you ever listened to a dude talk for two hours about how his feelings are so much deeper than yours and you can't possibly understand the pain he's in? I have. I have indeed. And when i watch this movie i can only see it happening 200 more times in my life. A million guys who see Joseph Gordon-Levitt being completely adorable (he is, it's true) and decide they must become Tom because all the cute, well-dressed indie girls will like them. It's going to happen. Believe you me. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is the new John Cusack. But that's nothing compared to the Summers.

2.The Summers - In college, there was a small gaggle of girls with Anthropologie-based wardrobes who cultivated the appearance of being daintily indie and worked hard to make themselves seem interesting. They chased after all the mildly intellectual dudes and wanted, i can venture a guess, to be junior Annie Halls. These girls were actually entirely uninteresting and clueless. They'd read one Kundera book and be set for life emulating Sabina. Guys always fell for it. That's the Summer Effect. A guy like Tom always falls for the girl who (at first glance) seems to have similar interests meshed with a healthy sexual appetite. She's the perfect girl! She listens to ______! Her favorite movie is ________! We're made for each other! Yeah, sometimes these girls actually are cool, but for the most part these girls are like the Summer in the movie. They have the aura of an interesting free spirit while, in reality, they're empty shells and walking contradictions. Summer, the free spirit, is a neatly dressed secretary. She talks about not believing in love and then turns around and runs off with the next guy. Ringo Starr is her favorite Beatle because he's no one else's. Note to humanity: that's not quirky, that's trying too hard. Trust me, i know, i went through my phase as a Summer-type early (though really, i would prefer to be identified as a Charlie from High Fidelity, thank you very much), around age 16-18. I wrote stories about not believing in love and made claims that sound ridiculous and was totally OBSESSED with The Fountainhead and The Unbearable Lightness of Being (oh yes, it's true). I went home and listened to How Soon Is Now? while staring at the ceiling (i do still love The Smiths, which, apparently makes you real special according to this movie). It was very boring. Now, at the ripe old age of 24, i can tell you the girls still in this period are also very boring. The difference being that when they shed their attempts at quirk, they won't do so in the nutty world of academia, they'll just slowly transform into, don't know, soccer moms. Just like with the Toms, there will be so many more faux Summers after this. Let's hope they cancel each other out. We will see a spike in album sales for Belle & Sebastian's Boy With the Arab Strap, and these vacuous hipsters will snap up all the decent guys. True story.

But really, the movie isn't that bad. I just can't bring myself to like it as much as i wanted to. Possibly because i'm a cynical and wary curmudgeon.
3.5 out of 5.

Wilde.Dash's reviews and more can be found at Love&Squalor.

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