(500) Days of Summer – 90 minutes of break-up

500dosIt’s been almost a decade since a frantic John Lithgow and his alien family left Earth, bringing about the end of hit US sitcom 3rd Rock from the Sun. Since then, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who played Tommy, has made his name on the indie film circuit by appearing in some truly excellent, offbeat films.

His brave turn in Mysterious Skin and brilliant performance in modern noir Brick were clear signs that Gordon-Levitt is very talented actor, with a good eye for a great role.

In (500) Days of Summer, Gordon-Levitt plays Tom Hansen, an ex-architecture student who now works as a writer for a greeting card company. His generally nonchalant disposition is radically altered when Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel) enters his life. Summer does not believe in true love, but finds Tom interesting enough to start dating him.

She makes it clear that she has no intention of becoming involved in a relationship; this spells disaster because Tom does believe in true love and thinks he has found it.

At the beginning, it is revealed that the couple break-up, and the nonlinear format of the narrative serves to show us sporadic moments of their time together. The relationship is deconstructed, and various days numbered between 1 and 500 are used to bookmark the film’s events.

A romantic-comedy, this is not. It is a coming-of-age story, and one that has its harsh moments. The relationship is summarised nicely in the tagline: “Boy meets girl, boy falls in love, girl doesn’t”. Tom is smitten, and many will relate to his total devotion to his first love. Although the audience will sympathise with Tom’s feelings, he was in fact told by Summer that it could not develop into anything long-term. This, of course, doesn’t make it any easier.

Tom stands by his ideals; determinedly believing that the two are destined to be together. Gordon-Levitt’s performance is, once again, excellent, and a fitting display of his talents. He masterfully depicts the spectrum of emotions that his character experiences, and it is a joy to watch.

However, the film lacks the necessary exploration of Summer’s character; she is a lead, and we never really get a chance to understand more about her. Zooey Deschanel is a brilliant actress (we enjoyed her turn as the big sister in Almost Famous), but there is not enough for her in the script.

Summer comes across as a bit selfish and careless, which is perhaps intentional. But this leaves the film somewhat lopsided, and we think it could have benefited from some elaboration on the title character.

The film is well shot, nicely paced and the performances are strong. The film as a whole cleverly epitomises the harshness of a break-up, and the ending has an interesting semi-twist (combined with a terrible last line). It just seems to lack a little bit extra from the development of other characters, especially Summer.

(500) Days of Summer is an enjoyable indie flick, which, whilst lacking originality, evokes those feelings of intense emotion that one can feel for another, and the absolute heartache when they are gone.

Image: Collider.com

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