Monday 7 September 2009

(500) Days of Summer

Year: 2009
Director: Marc Webb
Screenplay: Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel

Honest, Emotional, Funny. That's not what everyone wants from a romantic comedy but it's those three things that I personally need when I watch one. In the same way that horror films should be unnerving, Rom-com's should be able be to from the heart as well as amusing.

Opening with a sketched scene (you'll see) that fans of Juno would be proud of (500) Days of summer has a whiff of "Hollywood quirk" to it. However, in no way does this stop the film from being a cheap imitator, no far from it. (500) Days of Summer is an unbelievably sincere movie. But even it was following the footsteps of the Juno's, Little Miss Sunshines and the rest of them, it would still appear more fresh then the latest manufactured Matthew McConaughey/Kathrine Higel/Kate Hudson piece of filth that litter the cinematic landscape.

Librally playing with time as if it were Quentin Tarantino in the 90's, the film jumps to various moments of the "relationship", but not in chronological order. It's hard to fully keep up with the numbers but that's not important. The point is the insight of perspective that the time skips give. The juxtaposition of scenes makes moments of the film which could have been uninspired in lesser films hilarious. But it also makes the realisation more painful. An awkward, strained trip to Ikea, becomes a cheerful romp through the fake rooms as the happy "couple" play husband and wife (big metaphor there) and you grin your arse off, if only to realise how truthful it is.

What makes (500) Days so good is how accurate it's observations are. During the movie you may finding yourself siding with our protagonist, I mean why isn't Tom's affections reciprocated? Why is this girl sending such mixed signals and after the film. Yes, it's the unreliable narrator that is our protagonist. The film is on Tom's side...a little too much. One character's mentions that Tom should look back at the relationship and realise that Summer may not be the girl of his dreams. The brief montage shows that Tom cannot, because he is in love with the IDEA of Summer so much so that he has blinded the actual reality. The lack of scenes with Summer at the helm only help prove it.

The film's accuracy stems from the carefully observed moments of madness the film captures. I've done the karaoke thing, I've stopped listening to bands because of certain women (I can't look at the beatles in the same way) and as for the outbursts? Just ask my mate rob about me on my 20th birthday yelling about dying alone. We pick these moments and we laugh because it's true (but also because of the sharply written script).

It also helps as it's shown by a male perspective. No I'm not being sexist, it's just refreshing. This is a genre that almost only caters for women. Also, the rom-com these days merely wishes to revel in the simplistic shallowness, improbable aspirations of male perfection, and of course unrealistic happy endings that the disgusting characters don't deserve. Here we have a man who is not just a handsome mouth breather but a young optimistic man who may be a little too needy.

This is a role played impeccably by Gordon-Levitt. My girlfriend stated that he has an "interesting" face and I argee. It's what separates him from other male actors. By not looking like a clean cut leading man, Gordon-Levitt elevates the performance even more by having a face that could fit well in a crowd. He plays against a women who could be considered by a few to be the next Parker Posey. Zooey Deschanel is all cute grins and sparkly eyes at first but the inside of the character displays a rich Independence. An Independence that isn't merely shown by the fact that she can be sexual, but its shown by her boldness around people. She's not a damsel in distress, nor is she a cold heart bitch, merely real.

Director Marc Webb a music video director, makes the film great to look at but doesn't let the look over power the film. In fact his visual tricky only enhance the emotions that Tom feels (the french new wave scene had make giggling). There's some great story telling at hand, and although some the metaphors are heavy handed (a t-shirt saying love will tear us apart? COME ON!), the film won my heart with it's wicked sense of humor (watching porn together?), visual playfulness and a chemistry between the two leads (and some strong support) which plays off remarkably well.

The film He's just not that into you had some horrible cynicism coated with sugar to pretend it was trying to be truthful. It was bollocks. Watch this instead, giggle with glee as Tom makes a fool out of himself, then cringe when you realise that you've done it too.