August 02, 2009

MOVIE: (500) Days of Summer

In the interest of full disclosure, let me just state that I could never dislike any movie that prominently features Patrick Swayze's "She's Like the Wind" as a leitmotif.

Anyhoo, I read a negative review of the movie, where the reviewer says this in reference to a scene where the film's two lovers bond over their love of The Smiths: "I mean, my Mom likes The Smiths. ...the relationship between Tom and Summer is full of meaningless signifiers." While I agree with this statement, the reviewer completely misses the point that the movie intentionally highlights the shallowness of shared interests that often bring two people together, in movies and in real life.

On the other hand, I really can't blame the reviewer for being confused. I myself was truly puzzled to see that this movie, whilst being a sincere and thoughtful critique of youthful passivity and romantic projections, also embraced some of the worst rom com archetypes, such as:

1) Sassy Precocious kid: this one goes hand in hand with the infamous Manic Pixie Girl character as defined by the Onion A.V. Club. Please, no more with the little kid who is wise beyond her years and is the voice of reason, barfffff!!!!!!!

2) Unnecessary omniscient narration by a suspiciously Morgan Freeman like voice, who spells everything out for the audience! Please stop explaining shit to me!

3) Unrealistic but metaphorically convenient work places: Tom works as a copywriter for a greeting card company, but is an aspiring architect. The architect thing is a little cliched, but I can forgive that much. But a greeting card company, how sitcommy can you get?? Also, if Tom is an aspiring architect, isn't he more likely be designing the greeting cards, instead of writing them? All in all, a very uninspired, unimaginative choice.

But, inspite of these missteps, I really liked and enjoyed (500) Days of Summer. It's a nuanced look at a modern relationship, and an effective illustration of how our perceptions can fool our emotions. It's also a valiant mea culpa of a man who learns from a love that was plenty on lust & shared pop culture tastes, and not enough on true insight of his partner.

Also, let me not forget to mention, how deliriously fun this movie is. I got my money's worth just from the two scenes featuring: 1) spontaneous street dancing, and 2) hillarious send up of Godard/Bergman/Fellini in which Joseph Gordon-Levitt gets slapped by a French mime.

Speaking of Gordon-Levitt, please let's forever more stop referring to him as that kid from 3rd Rock from the Sun. Gordon-Levitt has turned in many memorable performances in many decent indies since then, and here he truly proves himself to be an exciting up and coming talent, and an excellent dancer to boot. Not to mention he also became the latest #1 celeb crush of myself and all three ladies I watched the movie with.

The reviews had me worried that Zoey Deschanel's character would be two dimensional and a symbolic blank slate, but I am happy to report that is not the case. Summer definitely remains elusive to the end, but there's shades & hints of emotions she keeps hidden from Tom, which we see more of as Tom emerges from the fog of blind devotion and re-examines the relationship with a clear head.

My friend Julia joked before going into the theatre "So, we're going to see The Ugly Truth, right?" And I think that about sums it all up.