Sunday, August 7, 2011


There’s a sorry state of affairs in Hollywood with romantic comedy. Safe to say we have all seen enough of their bland and predictable efforts at this type of entertainment. Every week or two a new one opens in theaters, lasts long enough to earn half the cost of its making and then slinks off to be repackaged for the home viewing audience. Most of them are clichéd, an old hat remix of last year’s grits and easily forgettable. But then on that rare occasion a director with vision is fortunate in connecting with an intelligent screenplay and the perfect boy-girl actor chemistry, a combination that ignites the spark and gives the story some zing, some style and a rocket boost out of the ordinary.

A romantic comedy that fits the latter description is the 2009 Marc Weber film, (500) Days of Summer starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel. Writers Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber have concocted a hip, intelligent, and incredibly stylish story about love, but one that states at the very beginning it is not a love story. In fact, it is a love story, but one that questions the idea that love and fate are concepts written in stone. In this movie we don’t get sweet and cute and couples walking down the aisle. (500) Days of Summer is more of an original romantic comedy where often the comedy is not all ha-ha, and where things don’t happen as Hallmark (and Hollywood) would have us believe. At the forefront of it all is the near sublime pairing of Gordon-Levitt and Deschanel.

Tom Hansen (Gordon-Levitt) is a young architecture graduate on temporary detour, doodling greeting card mush for a company in Los Angeles. One day Summer Finn (Deschanel) appears as a new secretary in the office and the game of love is on. Only thing is, Summer doesn’t play by the rules and Tom just falls harder. It gives nothing away to say that things don’t work out in the end. It’s the journey to that end we are interested in, the how and why of Tom and Summer’s relationship. Tom believes in true love and the corny sentiment typified by the greeting card business he is mired in. Summer is skeptical, promises no commitment, and doesn’t even believe in the notion of two people falling in love. Love can be confusing.

This film is just way cool. The screenplay, along with its nonlinear structure is flat out hip and stylish. Rather than an orderly count of calendar days we get the story of Tom and Summer’s romance in backward and forward jumps over 500 scrambled days, a teasing and ingenious structure that creates suspense about an already known ending. The days and nights of Tom and Summer are juggled to put one day in contrast with another, to show the random path that their feelings—especially Summer’s—wander upon. As most in his situation would, Tom expects the relationship with Summer to evolve in a predictable way, but ay there’s the rub.

Summer is a girl who eludes definition. Tom never really understands her and that right there tells us their chances of lasting together are slim. But with Tom there is a ‘can’t have-must have’ complex going on. What is hard about Summer, and a weakness in the film is that we get no sense of independent existence. She becomes an object for the lovelorn Tom; we are never inside her head and we don’t know what drives or motivates her. The result is emotional drama too one-sided. On the other side is Tom’s misdirection in the greeting card job, where his passions are aimed at the wrong targets. He wallows in trite and simple greeting card emotions while his true passion for architecture is sublimated. His is the mistake of building love and hopes on a misconceived foundation.

This movie’s uncommon twist is having the guy instead of the girl on the end with all the disappointment and heartache. This is different from what we expect and it is refreshing to see a movie that explores male emotions of the man-woman kind more openly.

Find the time to see this one. And when you do, look for this bit of trivia: The director used blue in every scene to enhance the very, very blue eyes of Ms Deschanel.


  1. Sounds like something I'd like to watch so will try to find it up here in the remote mountains of North Carolina.

  2. Been a fan of Zooey Deschanel long before this film. She never fails to deliver characters who are interesting and offbeat. And at least two highly regarded albums (showing my age) of songs and music attest further to how talented she is.


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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America