Sometimes you go to the movies expecting to be entertained. Sometimes you go expecting to be challenged, moved, or have your perspective on something changed. Rarely do you expect all of these things to happen. But that’s exactly what happened to me with director Marc Webb’s (500) Days of Summer. The story begins by telling you what is going to happen: it’s a boy-meets-girl story, but it’s not a love story. So rather than the story hinging on what happens, it focuses on why and how it happens. By freeing itself from the conventional structure of a romantic comedy the film is able to delve into psychological and emotional depths rarely seen in modern cinema. And the result is breathtaking.
Now, I should add a disclaimer to temper all of this ebullience. The film stars Zooey Deschanel, and I would probably give a 90 minute film of her reading the phone book 3 stars. She’s just captivating to watch on screen. That being said, she’s not the only thing that makes this movie great. The real star here is Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who portrays the modern everyman with tremendous aplomb. Anyone who has ever been excited, confused, and crushed by a relationship should be able to relate to the range of emotions he portrays. He’s truly great in this film, but that’s partially because of the material he’s given to work with.
Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber’s script captures perfectly the trials and tribulations that a relationship entails, the mix of elation, confusion, bitterness, and pain that they bring. Add to this Webb’s willingness to pay homage to other film genres, while simultaneously crafting a unique style, and you have an incredibly fresh-feeling, effective film.
(500) Days of Summer is in limited release, in just a few cities. But if it’s playing anywhere near you, do yourself a favor and go see it. You won’t be disappointed. For me it’s easily the best movie of the year so far.