500 Days of Summer (2009)
It had been a while since I last saw 500 Days of Summer. The movie was a favourite of one of my mates before he passed away. He had a big crush on Zooey Deschanel back then. But I always walked away from the movie thinking more about JGL, the writing, and the music.
As Tom, JGL nails the millennial vibe with his haircut, clothes, and general melancholy towards the world. His career struggles (evoking Great Recession sentiments) are actually an undervalued asset in the movie. They provide the audience with something else to care about in the Tom character besides his doomed relationship with Summer. It’s the only real piece of heroism in his arc, even though he’s the presumptive hero of the story.
I’m not sure if this is my favourite JGL performance (that might be 50/50 or Snowden), but I consider it to be the inflection point of his film career. After 500 Days of Summer, he had a really good stretch through the mid-2010’s. I hope he makes a bit of a comeback by playing Tony Romo in a biopic someday.
Zooey Deschanel showcases an exceptional range of acting in this movie. She clearly gets to play the more fun part by bringing lots of zany high energy offset with lots of low, deadpan humour. As the story bounces between the happy and the depressive, so too does Summer. I think it’s her strongest role. In New Girl, she’s far too annoying and outlives her initial story arc to her detriment. But in this movie, she gets to be the emotional black hole swallowing up all of JGL’s happiness. Because the movie is from Tom’s perspective, Summer is barely a person, but rather a misunderstood and beautiful villain. And she’s excellent as a villain. Her brutal honesty drives her villainy, much like Magneto in the X-Men series. Too bad Zooey Deschanel doesn’t take on more villainous parts.
A nonlinear structure is a clever way to elevate a relatively straightforward love story. It keeps the story unpredictable and spontaneous, especially when the comedy starts to cede ground to the drama. The story is essentially a mirrored version of When Harry Met Sally…, capitalizing on the episodic nature of the central romantic relationship by following the two characters’ journey over time.
The standout scene of the movie is the Expectations vs Reality sequence. The filmmakers slightly offset the split screen at the beginning of the scene when Tom climbs the stairs so that the audience can follow along with both clips simultaneously. Expectations exercises incredible visual storytelling through body language to avoid the problem of overlapping dialogue. It’s a brilliant short film nestled inside the greater movie.
The movie soundtrack, anchored by Regina Spektor, is brilliant because it actually enhances the storytelling rather than acting as a distraction. Check it out.
- A great movie title, very memorable
- A good pairing with The F Word (2013)