It is a rare break-up that is not accompanied by the reliving of moments. Upon the death of a relationship, we stop, we wonder: where did it go wrong? To say (500) Days of Summer is about a romance would be wrong. It is about a boy reliving a romance after it ends, complete with all the pain and confusion.
Tom (Joesph Gordon-Leavitt) falls for the sweet, always-just-out-of-reach Summer (played by Zooey Deschanel,) despite her warnings that she isn’t looking for a serious relationship and wants to remain independent. Summer eventually leaves – over a plate of pancakes during which she compares their relationship to Sid and Nancy – and Tom is left inconsolable and determined to win her back. The relationship between Tom and Summer isn’t much different from every other Sundance-dreaming, quirkier-than-thou coupling in the indie movie world. Instead, it is the way the story is presented that gives (500) Days its fresh charm.
Told through the lens of memory rather than in a linear fashion, (500) Days of Summer does what most romantic comedies don’t bother to do: takes the fairy tale sweetness out of love without losing the magic. Rather than relying on the most dramatic parts of the relationship to prop up the story, (500) Days turns to the smaller, banal moments – those moments that real life is made up of, but that filmmakers so conveniently forget. It’s through Tom’s eyes that we see these moments, and through changes in context and atmosphere, the same clips (replayed once and then again) allow for different readings. The film puts the viewer in Tom’s shoes, and again and again conjures up that ‘oh my God I know exactly how he feels’ reaction. Particularly noteworthy is the scene after their first real date, when Tom skips to work to Hall and Oates’ “You Make My Dreams Come True.”
Summer and Tom are really the only memorable characters in the film. Deschanel plays Summer to beautiful, unattainable perfection and Gordon-Leavitt is so convincing as Tom that you forget you’re watching an actor and not a friend. Slightly out-of-place in an otherwise easily believable movie is Chloe Moretz as Tom’s wise cracking younger sister (“Just because she likes the same bizzaro crap you do doesn’t mean she’s your soul mate,” she says to Tom early on in the film.) The character is not particularly charming and it’s an unusual 12 year old who has so much insight into an adult relationship. Nonetheless, the rest of the story flows so neatly it’s easy to forgive this one indiscretion.
The extras are fairly standard fare: trailers are available for those who enjoy them, as well as a director’s commentary, and deleted scenes. The deleted scenes don’t hold any hidden treasures. If you can, opt to watch them with a commentary as well. They will appeal to any screen-writing buffs who wonder why scripts never make it to film intact, or to those with schoolgirl crushes on Gorden-Levitt. Slightly disappointing is that the extras don’t really discuss the musical aspect of the film, which is a surprise since music is featured fairly prominently within the story.
Despite the run of the mill extra menu, (500) Days of Summer is a sweet dessert of a film – something well worth watching with a cup of tea on a cold day.