‘(500) Days of Summer’ Retro Review


Director: Marc Webb

Starring: Joseph Gordon Levitt, Zooey Deschenal, various hipsters.

Plot: It’s a rom-com, but with a twist. It’s pretentious AND boring.

During the voice-over introduction to this movie, the chain-smoking narrator bold-facedly informs the viewer that “this is not a love story”. He tells us this because he’s a liar, and wants to mock us later when we find out that we’ve been had. This is a story about a guy who falls in love, ergo a love story. Perhaps he meant that this was the ‘romcom that’s not a typical romcom’ that the fans and advertising for the film have been quick to assure us, but this is also a lie as the only thing that separates ‘500 Days of Summer’ apart from the rest of the romcom shelf at Video Ezy is that every shuffled the pages of the script before reading through them (and it’s the only one that doesn’t know what brackets are used for in titles). Everything is standard issue – guy who’s trying to get it together, sassy girl he likes, wacky friends, annoying yet insightful little kid – every box gets ticked.

Or perhaps the gravel-gargling narrator was referring to the fact that this movie has no heart? Evidently someone at Fox picked up on the fact that quirky characters are so hot right now, and tasked a team of marketing people to find out what could be considered ‘alternative’ without letting the mainstream cinema-going public feel out of the loop. That would explain the endless parade of pop-culture references to alternative yet commonplace names. Dressing the characters in Joy Division shirts, giving them some MP3’s of The Smiths, making them buy quirky furniture at Ikea…a lot of time went into the balancing act between alternative and not-to-obscure references here.

(Since watching it I’ve learned that the Fox representative at the local premiere outright told the audience that they wanted to tap into the “new alternative youth market”. Totally called it.)

See? We buy records! It's so adorably ironic!

Of course, the movie could be redeemed by simply having some good characters. People with real depth, who we can connect with, sympathise with, and want to see win in the end. Sadly, the movie fails again. The characters fulfill their mission statement of being ‘quirky’ (played by the two most quote quirky unquote typecast name actors available), but there’s literally nothing else to them. Take away their quirks, like listening the semi-alt band The Smiths, and it becomes impossible to pin another character trait onto them. The fact that they’re so shallow and wrapped up in their quirky lives that they’re somewhat unlikable – especially Summer, the conniving bitch. When the throat-cancer afflicted narrator explains the appeal of Summer to the viewer, it quite literally doesn’t get past “people just fell in love with her”. How? Why? Just telling us that people fall in love with her doesn’t mean that we’re going to believe it. Movies are a visual medium – why not show us what makes her so appealing instead of telling us and expecting us to play along?

Normally I like both of these actors, but on this outing I found them both intolerably smug. There really isn’t anything worthwhile in the material for them to work with.

If a movie wants to try something different, that’s great. If a movie wants to focus on a particular sub-culture, no problem. But this is a soulless attempt to look ‘cool’ without putting any effort to telling a good story. It’s almost insulting that the film-makers expect viewers to lap this drivel up.

THREE outta TEN

And for your homework: Four Reasons Why Zooey Deschenal Can Stop Acting Like A Dork.