The Flick Chicks

Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

(500) Days of Summer

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Jacqueline Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an English tutor for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also a consultant for Columbia College Chicago in Adjunct Faculty Affairs
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(500) Days of Summer

What happens in the year and a half that an idealistic young greeting card writer named Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) dates his heavily idealized soul mate, Summer (Zooey Deschanel)? Do they mesh, split, reconcile, marry? The shuffled deck of dates, or rather days, will leave you guessing, and you will either be charmed or irritated by the non-sequential series of events.

Tom is looking for his One True Love and Summer is looking for some kicks. She is the girl of his dreams, but finds that it takes way too many of the unfolding months for him to discover that he is not hers. You can ascertain from the title it takes all of the 500 days, and that makes for an alternately turbulent, alternately sweet story about a one-sided relationship bordering on obsession; with a whole lot of cluelessness thrown in.

Summer is maddeningly indecisive. She’s slow to speak, but quick to bat her eyes in guileless, disingenuous surprise. What it really disguises is an apathy that nonetheless allows itself to be repressed because Tom is a bit of a mildly amusing distraction that is able to dispel at least some of her boredom, poor guy. And Summer has nothing better to do for the moment.

For Tom, Summer is the epitome of passion, beauty, personality, and profundity. His love for her takes on epic proportions. And that’s where the film lost me. I couldn’t follow such an earnestly charming character (Tom) into an Idiotsville that was so clearly marked. Periodic narration helps the viewer know what’s going on in Tom’s mind and other facts such as “Summer got (insert number here) looks from men as she boarded the bus each day.”

Way to alienate the female members of the audience while reducing the female lead to someone who is simply attractive, as if that is all you need to know about her.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is funny and poignant as the love struck Tom, but Zooey Deschanel’s Summer lacks the enchantment necessary to make me believe Tom’s obsession with her. He comes across as sincere, heartbroken, moody, and jubilant. She comes across as both intellectually challenged and manipulative. But maybe that’s a skill in itself.

To make the premise work, the viewer has to enthusiastically embrace the idea of the couple and cheer them on. It doesn’t work if you know they are so clearly wrong for each other from the start. Well, maybe it does if you enjoy watching Tom make a fool of himself over a person that’s not worthy of his misguided attention. It’s touted as “not a love story” after all. The hard part is having to wait so long for Tom to get it.

Women will probably see through the Summer character light years before men, who are likely to get swept up in the wide-eyed, gee-whiz, slurry speech and interpret it (subconsciously, of course) as an easy score. Women will hold out for substance but will, sadly, not find it. This may make them impatient with the film by midpoint. I know I wanted that 500th day to occur long before it did. A clichéd, unsatisfying ending doesn’t help either.

Director Marc Webb (Seascape) has some imaginative scenes involving split screens and a visual line sketch-to-real-life transition. The first half of the film builds promise that the second half erases. You feel for Tom but could have given him a big “I told you so” early enough to abbreviate the 500 days into a few quick dates. Evidently the message is why expedite events when you can prolong the agony of a sweet, deserving fellow with a one track mind, who is unfortunately on the wrong track?

Although (500) Days of Summer was the toast of the Sundance and CineVegas film festivals and has some original moments, it ultimately settles into a disappointing niche as simply toast. You don’t want to live on that for 500 days, either.

One extra chick for some inventive cinematography.

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