A sweet, subtle and well-acted charmer, "500 Days of Summer" is the debut of screenwriter Marc Webb and stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Tom, a young man whose career is writing greeting cards. I once got a family member who liked fishing a card with a fisherman and a mushroom cloud in the background, leading the fisherman to note, "Screw the limit." It's one of those cards that's still talked about at family gatherings.
Tom comes up with flowery love notes for cards all day, until Summer (Zooey Deschanel) stops him in his tracks. She's the boss's new assistant, and he quickly finds himself falling for her. She also happens to notice him, and the two have a meet cute in the elevator while talking about music.
Yet - as the movie notes in the beginning - this is not a love story. The picture bounces around throughout the couple's relationship, with "day" tags labeled throughout the film, giving the audience a fractured glimpse of the couple's time together. While the story may bounce around, director Webb does a splendid job tying the film together and not making it feel episodic or having the storyline be muddled. The film certainly has the feel of a sweet memory that, over time, may fade - or, like the film, become a bit hazy and fall out of order.
While Tom and Summer first connect over music and then on a more intimate level, as the movie plays out we find that only Tom has really, truly fallen in love. Summer, on the other hand, just isn't a believer and doesn't see things the same way, resulting in a wall that Tom can he can never find his way over or around. When Tom tries to push his case, it only pushes her away.
While there's something there and these two people seem to certainly have chemistry and things in common, maybe it was never quite meant to be. While the end result is known, the movie does provide a heartfelt exploration of the difficulty, pain, growth and hope that comes from a brief-yet-breathtaking romance. The spot-on tone works and the focus on the journey instead of the destination is a refreshing change for the genre.
The two leads also go a long way towards making the picture work as well as it does, with Gordon-Levitt providing a moving performance as a young man who falls head-over-heels over the perfect girl whose dismissal of true love allows her to continue to float just out of his grasp. Deschanel also offers a fine performance, giving a character that could have been rather unsympathetic feeling and depth.
Director Webb also tries a number of different visual tricks to get into the mindset of the characters - moments like a musical number could come off as cutesy or gimmicky, but succeed in helping to maintain the film's carefully balanced tone. There are a few conventional elements to the film - a couple of friends and a wise little sister for Tom - that could have been dropped, but these are only mild issues.
Overall, "500 Days of Summer" tries to be a fresh, different take on the romantic comedy genre, and manages to be a touching look at two people who came together and shared a loving, painful, funny, touching and thrilling time with one another, but never quite found the true love connection one of them wished for. Still, they find themselves hopeful and maybe, a bit better for having been through the experience with each other.
VIDEO: "500 Days of Summer" is presented by 20th Century Fox in 2.40:1 (1080p/AVC). Aside from a handful of moments, the film generally appeared crisp and well-defined, with smaller details (hairs, textures) clearly visible in many scenes. While some light grain was seen during many scenes, but the grain was minor and gave the presentation a nice, "film-like" appearance.
No instances of pixelation or print flaws were noticed, but a couple of minor instances of edge enhancement were spotted. Colors generally remained natural, although some scenes offered brighter, warmer tones. Flesh tones looked accurate, and black level generally appeared adequate. Overall, this was a very pleasing presentation from the studio.
SOUND: The film's DTS-HD 5.1 soundtrack offers clear, crisp dialogue and warm, well-recorded music. The film's sound design is understandably limited, remaining largely dialogue-driven, with the exception of ambience coming from the rear speakers during some outdoor city scenes.
EXTRAS: Director Marc Webb and actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt provide an audio commentary for the film. The two deliver an excellent track, offering quite a few fun behind-the-scenes tales and a number of insights about the story and characters.
The whimsy of the film carries over into several of the special features including, “Bank Dance, Directed by Marc Webb”. The “Bank Dance” is a choreographed number where an imagined bank robbery takes place and the two main characters instantly have a connection and begin to dance. The number is incredibly enjoyable to watch, mostly because Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt seem to being having a genuinely fun time. Definitely worth a watch.
“Mean’s Cinemash: ‘Sid and Nancy/(500) Days of Summer’” is another refreshing addition to the DVD. Zooey Deschanel plays Sid and Joseph Gordon-Levitt is Nancy in this humorous look at the characters as Sid and Nancy who eventually discuss Summer and Tom. Not only is this off-beat and humorous, the performances are incredibly enjoyable to watch.
“Audition Tapes” are included here for Geoffrey Arend and Matthew Gray Gubler. As far as audition tapes go, these are especially nice because you can choose to listen to the director’s comments on why he liked each performance.
“Summer at Sundance” is fun to watch, mainly because of Director, Marc Webb’s genuine excitement about having his film at Sundance.
A somewhat lengthy segment between Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt talking together is also included. I’m glad they included this, if only because it’s refreshing to have conversations that don’t feel entirely like traditional bonus feature interviews.
“Storyboards” include director commentary as well, and both storyboards can be viewed with the actual footage to get an idea of how the storyboard compares to the actual footage.
Other more traditional additions to the extra features include “Behind 500 Days” which follows the director as he talks about different aspects of making the film including having the right cast, the look of the film and more. “Not a Love Story: Making (500) Days of Summer” is nearly 30 minutes and brings in the actors, the director, producers, writers and more to discuss what it was like making the film. As far as “Making Of” features go, this is one of the better ones with some interesting tidbits and a nice look at the work and creativity that went in to making “(500) Days of Summer”.
Also included is “Fox Movie Channel: In Character Interviews” which are brief individual interviews with Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The interviews go over their process of preparing for the film, including how both Deschanel and Gordon-Levitt like to listen to music to inspire them. There are also several “Nine Deleted/Extended scenes” that can be viewed all at once, or one by one. The “Music Video: ‘Sweet Disposition’ by the Temper Trap” is also included here.
A digital copy of the film is also included with the Blu-ray.
Final Thoughts: "500 Days of Summer" is a sweet, fresh take on the romantic comedy, with excellent performances from the two leads. The Blu-Ray edition provides excellent video quality, fine audio quality and a nice set of supplemental features. Recommended.
The Film B+