Review: ‘(500) Days of Summer’

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I went into this film knowing essentially two things:

1) It stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel, and
2) It’s not a love story but rather a story about love

In my opinion, that’s the best way to see this (or any) film, so if you’re a fan of Joseph Gordon-Levitt or Zooey Deschanel, or if you’re intrigued by the idea of a romantic comedy that, against all odds, isn’t a generic, boring, waste of time, then by all means, go and see this film as soon as it opens tomorrow (7/24). However, if you’re still on the fence about it, here’s my take on the film.

Since Scott and Jeremy reviewed (500) Days of Summer when it was screened at Sundance and Cinevegas, HERE and HERE, and I completely agree with both of their takes on it, I’ll try to take a different approach. About a third into the movie, during a particularly ingenious musical number, the thought hit me, “this feels like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off!” Not because it was ripping off Ferris Bueller, in fact the two stories couldn’t be more different, but because of the strong emphasis on characters over story and the general likability of the entire cast.

The film takes place through the eyes of Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). He’s universally loved by his coworkers, he’s fun to hang out with, and he’s an all around great guy. (Sound familiar?) But that’s only on his good days. Throughout the film, we get to see glimpses into the 500 days that Tom spends with his love at first sight (Zooey Deschanel) and when he’s on a good day everything is pretty great. On the bad days? Not so much.

Through the film, we are greeted by title cards which let us know what the current day of summer is, and we also get a preview of how the day will turn out. (I could explain more, but it’s kind of cool to just see and experience for yourself. One of the many little touches that make this film great.) On the bad days Tom is more of a Cameron: whiny, moping, and full of hate. This contrast lets us know, right from the start, that all bets are off as to where this relationship will end up.

Like Ferris Bueller, this film is genuinely fun, funny, and manages to bring the dramatic bits without spoiling the humor in the end. If there’s one thing I hate about comedies, it’s when the first two acts are full of laughs and then as soon as the inevitable dramatic moment hits in the third act, everyone goes silent (basically every terrible romantic comedy out there). Partly because of the non-linear nature of the story, and partly because of the very tight editing (no fat here) the film never drags, and it never loses its momentum as a comedy. One of my favorite bits came totally unexpected, so I won’t spoil it here, but I’ll just say it was a brief cameo from a 1977 movie character…

While the Ferris Bueller character similarities pretty much end with Tom, this is really his story, so it’s a good fit. Go into the film with “Ferris Bueller’s (500) Days” in your mind, and I think you’ll see what I mean.

All in all, with (500) Days of Summer, you can expect a tightly woven, well-crafted, technically brilliant film that will leave you smiling (and possibly wishing that your girlfriend looked like Zooey Deschanel).


  1. Lisette

    July 25, 2009 at 8:41 am

    That’s so true it does feel like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off!!
    Loved this movie very much :)

  2. Homer

    July 27, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    I enjoyed how the main character’s perspective on love and life evolved. The main character starts out a believer in soul- mates, destiny and such, then is torn apart by his supposed soul-mate. This leads him to reject the idea’s of destiny, then at the end of the film he takes both philosophies into consideration and finds that there are some things in life you cannot control (destiny) but what matters is taking control and acting on the opportunities presented to you (free will). The point being that you can’t just sit around and wait for life to happen, and expect only good things (makes me think of Camus/existentialism). I also thought there were some subtle nods to Objectivism. I noted that in once scene, there was a copy of Atlas Shrugged next to the main character, and that had a passion for architecture (the Fountianhead). His speech about greeting cards and their value to society also seemed Ayn Rand-esque to me.

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