(500) Days of Summer is both a movie and a statement on the current independent film movement. The film stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel as a couple who begin the film at the end of their relationship. It’s mostly over but there’s some slivers of hope, but then the film shows how they came together as it shows the end of the road. It’s a charming “quirky” low budget romantic comedy that found an audience over the summer of 2009, and my review of (500) Days of Summer is after the jump.
Gordon-Levitt is Tom Hansen, the sad-sack lover in love with Summer Finn (Deschanel, who defines The Onion’s AV Club’s manic-pixie dream girl) who he met at work. He writes the text for Hallmark cards (an homage to Neil Simon’s The Lonely Guy?), but wants to be an architect (he’s constantly drawing), and she’s a woman who doesn’t believe in true love and is kind of a free spirit. She seduces him a little, he proves himself to her, they have a golden period, and then it starts to fall apart. Their communication becomes awkward, and all the things he does to remind her of how he fell in love/they fell for each other rub her raw.
The story of people falling in and out of love is a familiar one in cinema, and you can’t really place this film on the shelf with films like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or Annie Hall, nor can you call it one of the great young romances as you might label the best of John Hughes or Say Anything… Indeed, what director Marc Webb’s whole film feels like is an audition piece. It works as a movie, but what stands out are the set pieces, from Gordon-Levitt’s musical number done to a Hall and Oates song, to a scene where Expectations plays in split-screen with Reality. These sequences stand out so strongly it points out that much of the rest of the film – and its somewhat pat conclusion – are holding water for the money sequences. That’s not to say the film doesn’t understand relationships or get them, it does even if there are a couple of moments where it skirts being a commercial. It’s an honest film for the most part, but it’s also a film that feels like the sort of movie people who haven’t seen the movies this film loves could love, much like When Harry Met Sally. There are some nice grace notes, though, there’s some wonderful moments about that disconnect that comes after a long enough time, and how what people want out of relationships can change with the next person or the next day. This is a pop song, but it’s not a bad one.
As an independent film, this Fox Searchlight movie used the marketing tools of that industry to sell a film that really isn’t all that independent, nor does it offer anything all that alternative to Hollywood. It’s a hook to sell a movie made for under $20 Million dollars, and a way to have a film released on less than a 1000 screens and still turn out decent business. With the economy such as it is, there aren’t that many players who go theatrical with art films – even if they are Sundance hits – and so this is one of the biggest films from what amounts to the Indie scene in the 21st century. I think Devin Faraci said this is an indie movie for people who think you can still be indie and play on car commercials. That doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a struggle to make it, or anything like that, but what these labels mean have been junked and commoditized to the point of meaninglessness, in regards to what it once meant to be a real independent.
Twentieth Century Fox presents the film on Blu-ray in anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) and in 5.1 DTS-HD. The transfer is excellent, as to be expected. The film comes with commentary by director Marc Webb, screenwriters Michael Weber and Scott Neustadtler, and Gordon-Levitt. There are nine deleted and extended scenes (15 min.) with commentary from the gang. “Not a Love Story” is the making of (29 min.) and it’s nice and thorough on the time it took to get this into production and the architecture of how you tell this story with its fractured narrative. “Summer at Sundance” (14 min.) follows the film’s showing at the festival, where it was a big hit. There are two audition tapes for co-stars Geoffrey Arend (4 min.) and Matthew Gray Gubler (3 min.) with optional director commentary, two storyboard sequences, a “Bank Dance” music video by Webb for a Deschanel song, and the Cienmash version of Sid and Nancy with Deschanel and Sid and Gordon-Levitt as Nancy. There’s also an additional music video, six conversations between Deschanel and Gordon-Levitt (12 min.) six behind the scenes pieces (15 min.), and bonus trailers. The Blu-ray comes with a digital copy as well.