(500) Days Of Summer

(500) Days of Summer represents the latest in a string of unabashedly indie, alternative rom coms that have invaded our movie-going consciousness over the last few years. Epitomised by films such as 2007’s In Search of a Midnight Kiss and breakout hit Juno, this particular stable doesn’t pander to the slush and the schmaltz of the chick flick brigade’s yearly output; rather the emphasis rests on a razor-sharp, knowing dissection and reappraisal of romantic mores with frequently bittersweet results.

Marc Webb’s charming film displays the same quirky reimagining of the romantic coming-of-age formula, injecting some much needed chutzpah into a stale genre.

Protagonist Tom (an affable Jason Gordon-Levitt) is a romance-obsessed weed who works at a greeting cards company, churning out prepackaged emotion for mass consumption. His life is turned upside down by the arrival of new girl Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel), who is beautiful, carefree and fiercely independent. Inevitably, there is chemistry, and the two embark on a fledgling relationship resounding with passion and excitement. However, it is not long before their wildly different romantic outlooks come into play. The film tracks the highs and lows of their turbulent relationship, flipping back and forth to key moments over the 500 days that they are part of each other s lives.

The car crash of Tom and Summer s relationship makes for entertaining viewing. Scott Neustradter and Michael H. Weber’s script is ripe with humour, zest and subtlety, with well-defined characters and an abundance of endearing comic moments. The scene in which the would-be couple have a shouting match with the word penis springs to mind as an example of the simple, true to life comedy that sees the film at its best.

Loaded with hipster film and music references, (500)DOS still errs on just the right side of studied cool, resisting the irritating smugness that so often befalls films reaching for cult status (see the aforementioned Juno). A well-balanced soundtrack bolsters the effect.

That the film succeeds as it does is largely due to how likeable the characters are. Both Tom and Summer are intelligent, engaging and flawed enough to be irresistibly believable. Some of the more artificially bombastic moments aside, the movie favours a realistic portrayal of two people spiraling in and out of love over cartoonish characterisation.

The blend of compatibility and friction Gordon-Levitt and Deschanel bring to their shared screen time is instrumental in this. Standard definitions of gender are gleefully subverted, with Summer demonstrating a typically male distrust of commitment that prompts one of Tom’s workmates to comment, You’re a dude! By comparison, the navel-gazing Tom largely forgoes the male stock characteristics we’ve come to expect from rom coms; refreshingly (though sometimes infuriatingly) introspective, he agonises over the state of the relationship and pines to Smit’s songs, making the New Man look like a beer-guzzling, chauvinist slob.

Miscommunication is a key theme running through (500)DOS, illustrated by some canny and often hilarious exchanges between the two leads. Early on in their acquaintance, Summer’s admission that her college nickname used to be anal girl causes Tom to balk in surprise, until she innocently explains, I was very neat. Moments like this epitomize the film’s playful, offbeat heart.

While readily billing itself as an anti-romance , much like the balls-out bromances of Judd Apatow et al, (500)DOS is secretly a die-hard believer in fairytale love. Contrary to the sporadic narration that represents one of the movie’s few unnecessary and whimsical bugbears, it is a love story- just one that is willfully unconventional.

For those that like their rom coms straight up with a large side helping of sentimentality, Webb’s film may well prove frustrating. The idiosyncratic cut of the characters will probably come across as self-indulgent, even narcissistic, and while the ending is certainly feelgood it won’t have you reaching for the Kleenex for an appreciative sob.

However, for closet romantics everywhere and those who are jaded with the myth of true love alike, there is a lot to enjoy. While hardly a classic, (500) DOS certainly warrants your attention.

(500) Days of Summer

95 mins

Director: Marc Webb

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