"It's love. It's not Santa Claus."
For years, I've suggested to all of my female friends that they read Nick Hornby's High Fidelity. In that book, Hornby does a better job of describing how men think than in anything else I've read. Most writers don't get it right. Men are either too obnoxious or too macho or too sensitive. People do a good job of getting one aspect really right, but it's rare to see someone put it all in one package. No matter that they were snubbed by the Academy with no Oscar nomination, in (500) Days of Summer, Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber absolutely nailed it.
I had only heard fantastic things about this film from a variety of sources, so I was excited to finally get to see it. I had heard that it was about a relationship and the five hundred days that it lasted. Not really true. It's about a guy who meets a girl and the ups and downs that take place before, during, and after their relationship and about whether the ideal of love actually exists or not. It's mainly light, very feel-good, very funny. That's not to say that it isn't also complex at times. It's everything you'd expect from a true-to-life story that could happen to anyone. In watching it, I struggled with the fact that the female character is fairly archetypal. For instance, Ringo Starr is her favorite Beatle and she acts exactly like you would expect someone to act if they felt that way. It took some time to realize that the movie was really about the guy, not the girl. It is only about her in how the guy reacts to her. Funny enough, my wife had a hard time relating to it in the same way that I did.
The movie is driven by its script, but that doesn't work without the actors delivering it believably. The female lead is Zooey Deschanel and I touched briefly on what I think about her in my review of The New Guy. I'm a big fan; she is immensely talented and she has that "it" that makes her likable every time you see her. The male lead is Joseph Gordon-Levitt. His bizarre appearance in G.I. Joe aside, he is one of the trendy young actors and for good reason. He was good in a small role in 2008's Stop-Loss and he proved his chops in one of the most underrated movies of the past few years, 2007's The Lookout (I'm hoping that if I say that enough I can convince everyone to see it). The movie also co-stars Geoffrey Arend, and I only say that because I was thinking "I hate you" whenever I saw him because he's married to Christina Hendricks.
(500) Days of Summer marks the directorial debut of Marc Webb, whose next project is the Spider-Man reboot. He started out directing music videos, which was also the road to prominence for both David Fincher (yay!) and McG (boo!). You can see the influence of videos on this movie, with some unorthodox shots and a nice fantasy dance sequence in the middle. There was one part I particularly loved, when the main character is going to a party and the film shows, side-by-side, what his expectations are and what the reality is. Really, really nice stuff.
So, a great script with some of the most realistic presentation of inner thoughts I can remember, actors I love carrying it out, interesting and effective direction. We've had discussions about what constitues a "perfect" movie. I present this one as my newest entry on that list. In addition, it jumps onto my list of my favorite movies from 2009. Inglourious Basterds is obviously my favorite, but there were three movies that had me smiling throughout, so my #4 through #2 are An Education, (500) Days of Summer, and Up In The Air.