MOVIE REVIEW ★★★ ‘Summer’ Is Love Shattered, Put Back Together

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Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Summer (Zooey Deschanel) share a classic indie-couple moment at the record store (where else?).
Courtesy of Fox Searchlight

500 Days of Summer
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 95 Minutes
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500 Days of Summer is not a love story. The narrator, in his rich public radio voice, warns of us this right away. It is about a boy who meets a girl. What? 500 Days of Summer is not a love story? A clever indie film, it is a lovely thing that delves deeper into relationships and their complexities than most stories. While at a glance a simple love tale, 500 Days triumphs due to its poignancy and dedication to detail.

Tom, a greeting card writer, falls hopelessly for his new boss’s secretary, a seemingly simple love that unravels into something else. Joseph Lewitt-Gordon pulls his role off perfectly. His wide, doe-like eyes exude a boyish charm and sincerity that captures Tom’s nature wonderfully. Since 10 Things I Hate About You, Gordon has come a long way, although he is still stuck with the role of a “nice guy.” A lanky figure and never without a pair of scenester headphones, Tom is not your typical romantic-comedy protagonist. Neither is Summer, really. Her prim and proper vintage attire and bright blue eyes belie a jaded realist and an individual who only acts on what she wants, without any concern towards others.

The film takes us through snapshots in their relationship: Day 32, Tom is officially smitten with Summer; Day 185, their relationship seems to have reached a standstill. We are sent on an emotional roller coaster, experiencing the couple’s “honeymoon period,” separation, and confrontation. Ultimately, we come away with a kaleidoscopic collage of Tom and Summer. With all of the pieces of the puzzle, we only need to figure out what love is and how much it is worth. The director’s storytelling technique physically shows “a guy sifting through the memories of a relationship by moving backwards and forwards through time as he starts to see things he might not have seen while he was going through it.” The co-writer Scott Neustadter notes that the screenplay was a hybrid of romantic comedy and David Bowie’s Memento.

The film is not a disillusion about love, but rather a discovery about love and what it really means to love someone. While from the very beginning we are shown that Tom was borderline stalking Summer and his affectionate ways were very endearing, his puppydog adoration does not become love until much later. 500 Days of Summer is a romantic comedy like no other. We know from the onset that the two have broken up, but it is not where Tom and Summer end up that matters, but rather 000000000how they end up where they are. 500 Days of Summer is not merely about one boy and his girlfriend Summer, but also the “summer” of his life.

As Director Marc Webb noted, “We all know Summer because Summer isn’t just a girl. She’s an event.” The “Summers” were the ones who promised to call but didn’t — those who were wonderful when times were good, but when times were not, the other could not possibly forget her. She is the one you would have loved to hate but you end up longing after her for a good three more months after she leaves. While it may sound cheesy and Hallmark-esque, the film is really about a boy discovering the true nature of love. Tom is in love with the idea of love. As she spirals away from him, he realizes that he was never in love with Summer, the person, but rather the girl he had made her into.

As a romantic comedy, 500 Days of Summer defies many of the checklist characteristics. It has a semi-unhappy ending. It causes us to question if there is such a thing as “the one.” The female is cast as the Bohemian seductress who rips our protagonist’s heart into shreds. But there is not a shred of cynicism to be found. There are moments when one’s belief in love may be shaken, but it comes back strong. Ultimately, 500 Days is, as the director puts it “a pop song in movie form.”