Monday, 28 September 2009

(500) Days of Summer - Colour My Life In Chaos

He fell for a girl who didn't believe in love but managed to convince her otherwise.
"Roses are red, Violets are blue,
Fuck you whore"
(500) Days of Summer is an indie rom-com with all the right ingredients for the 21st century MTV audience. The film plays on the relationship between love and pain through the comical awkwardness of humdrum greeting-card writer Tom Hanson (Joseph Gordon Levitt - see Mysterious Skin & Brick) and the coy ambiguity of Summer Finn played by indie pin-up girl Zoey Deschanel (see Gigantic & The Good Girl). At the beginning of the un-labelled relationship Finn pre-warns Hanson of her intentions, or lack thereof : "I'm not looking for anything serious," cue Hanson's despondency, violins and breaking heart. In real life, it seems Deschanel whole-heartedly embraces the concept of indie love; she just recently married Death Cab For Cutie's frontman Ben Gibbard.

The boy meets girl, girl 'shits' on boy story highlights the perils of love in life, but seems content with merely skimming the surface. It seems director Mark Webb intentionally avoids any raw emotion, with the pretence of targeting an audience who would be more than satisfied with the palatable Belle and Sebastian, The Smiths and Joy Division references. This post-modern love story  is presented in a disjointed non-linear fashion, portraying the film as a 'memory story'; an unorthodox Memento-like style which allows the film to parallel different stages of a relationship. Despite this emotions fail to peek and instead maintain a constant plateau of 'lull', an exception to this would be the smack in the chops Hanson receives in Summer's honour, again at his own comical expense.

The constant drone of Summer's monotone voice further dispels any hope of real feelings, something that could be easily achieved with even a slight stint of intonation. But alas, Deschanel parades the same "crooked teeth, blue eyes and 1960s hairstyle" paired with her girly sense of dress, which seems to carry her though all her films. Her insouciant mannerisms lend to her polite exit from the 'relationship'; the movie excuses her insensitive behaviour and presents her as a completely unaware character. She is confused by the feeble concept of 'love' and therefore less of a cold-hearted bitch. The film manages to steer clear of the stereotyped Hollywood gender roles yet ironically states that  "there are two types of people in this world, men and women",  a complete contrast to the ambiguous gender roles played out in the film. Summer's character enjoys 'holding hands in IKEA and having sex in the shower,' yet if she were a guy she would be labelled selfish misogynistic - lucky for her.

It has to be noted that early on in the story the earnest gentleman narrator firmly informs the audience that (500) Days of Summer 'is not a love story.' Writers Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber refer to their narrative as 'a coming-of-age story pretending to be a romantic comedy', one which involves two characters. The three-dimensional lovelorn Tom Hanson and  the unidentifiable Summer Finn, a woman filled with Tom's ideal projection. Although it is very easy to be sucked into Hanson's fantasy world, the writers hope viewers see that Summer Finn, the bewitching 'villian', who excuses any wrong-doings by batting her big blue eyes, is merely a vehicle for Hanson to realise his dreams. Other than her favourite The Smiths' song, Hanson really doesn't know anything about Summer.

Aesthetically, this picture is very beautiful but did you feel like you were Yoko Ono watching the film through her trademark blue-tinted glasses? Before you self-diagnose a 'defunct cornea' put your mind at ease, by realising that this blue-centric colour-scheme was purposely used to bring out Deschanel's blue eyes. Yes, there was indeed method behind the 'deer in headlights' madness.

(500) Days of Summer is what it is. Put simply it's another indie flick with very calculated timing. Hollywood has found a way to appeal to the 'masses', those indie alt-fans who feel jaded; cheated by the unrealistic expectations of movies such as Legally Blonde. These new quirky romcoms include acoustic indie soundtracks which seem to add a new kind of realistic depth; one reminiscent of knobbly knees, crooked teeth and all the understated peculiarities and insecurities that make life 'real'.  Quirky characters with awkward social tendencies (see Napoleon Dynamite & Garden State) and affinities for indie rock bands (Juno, Nick and Noah's Infinite Playlist & Paper Heart), often coupled with twenty-something melancholy heartbreak, are the new niche and actors like Zooey Deschanel, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and even Michael Cera are in their prime.

Marc's Webb's debut is cute and sweet; something you wouldn't mind savouring, but for a movie supposed to be about love and pain, it does not hurt nearly enough. This of course, is less of a criticism and more of an observation.

A side note: go see Closer if you're looking for some real raw emotional intensity.

After being caught out for her infidelities, Owen presses Robert's for more detailed information: "what does he taste like?” to which she replies "he tastes like you, only sweeter". After a line like that, a kick in the guts would be a walk in the park.

Disclaimer: (500) Days of Summer was distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures, a company responsible for indie films Sideways, Little Miss Sunshine and Juno, and not MTV.


  1. You're right, the movie was targeting people like me, and I got suckered into it pretty hard. It hit me right in the middle of my chest as I recalled more than one failed relationship. Though I'm an old romantic so it's not that to turn me into a puddle of emotions.

  2. Apparenly Gigantic is very very similar. You'd probably like it! lol

  3. great review, i thought it was just me?

    saying that, i did enjoy the hall&oates musical number about a million times more than the bank dance - what's she doing dancing to her own song?

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. It felt as though people were too hesitant to hate this movie.. weird. and what's she doin' dancin' to her own song? she's pushin like oh so many others before her. ;)


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