Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Summer lovin'

Contrary to popular perception, 500 Days of Summer is not a chick flick; it is actually a guy movie. It is also not a love story, and the narrator makes that point-blank clear at the very start of the film. What it is is the story of hopeless romantic Tom Hansen (the very grown-up, very cute Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a frustrated architect-turned-greeting card writer, who falls head over heels for his boss' new assistant, Summer Finn (the even cuter Zooey Deschanel, my girl crush). Only problem is, Summer doesn't believe in love, and for 500 days Tom's own idealistic notions of love-- as well as his heart-- are put through the wringer.

I can imagine that even the most macho dude watching this movie would have been able to relate to Tom at some point in the non-linear sequence of events (which reminded me of How I Met Your Mother's smart use of flashbacks). The comedy and melodrama of falling hard for a girl who doesn't quite reciprocate the intensity of his feelings should be relatable to any red-blooded male. Moreover, 500 Days is one of those rare films that pulls off the precarious balancing act of being funny, yet still taken seriously. There are many laugh-out-loud moments throughout the movie, but underneath the laughs is the recognition of universal truths about romantic relationships: that yes, I have acted that dorkily for a girl before, or yes, I know what it's like to wake up in the morning and feel on top of the world because of love, or yes, I have had my heart ripped out of my chest cavity and shredded into a million pieces.

The smart storyline and novel presentation of the film are further enhanced by the natural acting and charm of its two young leads. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is adorable as Tom, and the character reminded me of Ted Mosby from HIMYM (architect too!), but sweeter and more sympathetic. My beloved Zooey Deschanel makes it easy to see how Tom becomes so smitten with Summer-- she's luminous in every scene, glowing with an almost ethereal beauty, and showing such soul in those doe eyes. But I gush.

500 Days is refreshing in its simplicity,
intelligent in its straightforwardness, and realistic in its absence of sugar-coating-- much like its eponymous heroine. It's very contemporary too, which is why it resounds so much with 20- and 30-somethings who have seen it. The film paints a portrait of modern relationships as unapologetically practical, coolly unsentimental, unnecessarily complicated, and utterly, devastatingly the same as old-school relationships at the core. That line from one of my favorite romance films, Shakespeare in Love, comes to mind: "We are all fools in love." And as the promotional poster for 500 Days of Summer goes, "This is not a love story. This is a story about love." A story about love, and the fools-- bless their hearts-- who still believe in it.


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