Jan 2, 2020
(500) Days of Summer (2009) (part 1 of 10)
The Cast of Characters:
Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). A greeting card writer/wannabe architect who loves the Smiths and other fey British pop bands. Pushing 30, yet still views love from a 12 year old boy’s perspective. Once had a boring year-long relationship which we’ll be forced to watch in its entirety.
Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel). “Summer Finn”? Really? That’s the name they went with? An executive assistant and Smiths fan (wow, two Smiths fans in one movie, crazy!) who every guy lusts after, despite having no actual personality. Over the course of a year, she breaks Tom’s heart by not doing anything the slightest bit cruel to him.
McKenzie and Paul (Geoffrey Arend and Matthew Gray Gubler). Tom’s completely interchangeable, overly cutesy guy friends. They often appear to be speaking the lines meant for the female best friends in a romantic comedy with a female lead. They occasionally make smutty, yet cutesy jokes in failed attempts to prove they’re men.
Rachel Hansen (Chloë Moretz). Tom’s overly cutesy 12 year old sister, who is of course precocious and wise beyond her years. Tom looks to her for sage advice, but you kind of believe it, because Tom evidently missed a lot of important lessons growing up. Also, I’ve used the word “cutesy” three times already in this recap. Get used to it.
Not so long ago, it seemed that to make a well-regarded, critically acclaimed movie, you needed to have something remarkable to say, or at least a unique perspective on life. But as the makers of last year’s indie sensation (500) Days of Summer have shown, all you really need to do is watch a lot of movies, and have one mildly crappy relationship, and you’ve earned the right to make your mundane life experiences into a film, and subsequently be hailed as a genius for it.
(500) Days of Summer bills itself as a fresh take on the romantic comedy genre, with a story that unfolds in a nonlinear, non-chronological narrative. “Great!” I thought to myself before going into this, “So it’ll be like Memento, only a romantic comedy.”
Unfortunately, Memento was funnier. Despite the arbitrary shuffling of events, it’s every other indie romcom you’ve ever seen, with a soundtrack full of emo songs, plenty of kitschy ‘80s references, and a lead with a twee job (writing greeting cards), a twee dream (becoming an architect), two goofy best buds who care way too much about his love life, and a precocious younger sibling who counsels him on romance. I mean, for the love of all that’s holy, it actually features a big group dance number set to a kitschy pop song from the 1980s.
Oh wait, I forgot: the two leads don’t end up together at the end of the movie. Apparently, this is the height of brilliance when it comes to romantic comedies these days. I’ll admit, it is groundbreaking, or at least it was groundbreaking thirty years ago when Woody Allen did it. But I can’t really say that (500) Days of Summer shamelessly rips off Annie Hall. They’re most likely ripping off When Harry Met Sally which shamelessly ripped off Annie Hall.
And then, there’s the title. It’s (500) Days of Summer, because the female lead’s name is Summer, and the male lead’s infatuation with Summer lasts 500 days, get it? But why the parentheses? It would make sense, I guess, if “days of summer” was a saying, but it’s really not. There are the “dog days of summer”, but “days of summer”, not so much. So the title is really just a failed, overly self-conscious attempt by the filmmakers to seem witty. In that respect, it sums up the film perfectly.
(500) Days of Summer was by and large loved by the critics (86% on Rotten Tomatoes), and generated a lot of awards buzz at the end of the year. But despite a few nominations at various ceremonies, including a Golden Globe nom for Best Picture, Comedy or Musical (which is none too surprising, considering the crap that’s won Golden Globes in the past), the movie was completely shut out at the Oscars this year.
I’m somewhat relieved to know that at least the members of Academy realize it takes a bit more than editing scenes out of chronological order to make a dopey, simplistic comedy into something award-worthy. At the same time, I’m sort of disappointed, because this means that come March, there will still be only one Oscar-winning film featured on this site.
The fact is, if you were to actually arrange everything in this film in the proper chronological order, it would become stunningly obvious what a dull, predictable story this really is. And guess what? I’ve actually done that. Because these recaps are never long enough, I briefly went back over the entire movie to list events in the proper order. Stick around until the end of the recap for the official (500) Days of Summer Chronological Chronology!