Thursday, September 10, 2009

500 Days of Summer - The Best Film of our Time?

It’s been just a little over a month since I first saw 500 Days of Summer, and I’ve already seen it a second time. I may see it again. Where did this movie come from? I haven’t seen a movie this good in a long time.

For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, 500 Days of Summer tells the story of Tom Hanson (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel). Tom is a greeting card writer and Summer is the new Executive Assistant at the company. For the next 500 days after their first meeting, they embark on a relationship filled with passion, love, intimacy, laughter, joy, distance, heartbreak, and ultimately rebirth. In the words of the film's narrator, “This is a story of boy meets girl. But you should know up front, this is not a love story.”

One of the true miracles of 500 Days of Summer is the pace. With a run time of 95 minutes, 500 Days covers more dramatic ground than most of the two hour plus opuses that Hollywood has been turning out recently.

The quick pace of the movie is mainly attributed to the non-linear structure of the story. By introducing the 500 days out of order, the dramatic highs and lows of the story often get to be experienced concurrently. Marc Webb, first time feature film director and music video veteran, along with the screenwriters, takes a real risk with this structure, and it pays off. With Webb’s music video background, 500 Days could have had an MTV feel with more style than substance.

500 Days of Summer develops a real sense of play with its structure and throws away many of the conventional plot devises of the typical romantic comedy; the most effective being the party sequence in the film. The sequence is shown with split screen through two different perspectives; reality and Tom’s expectations of how the way the evening will go. The differences are minor, but heartbreaking. Heartbreaking because it allows us to get inside of Tom’s head and feel what he is feeling.

What makes 500 Days so unforgettable is how real these characters and their situations feel. I found myself really relating to the character of Tom. I especially related to how Tom uses his heartbreak to learn to truly believe in himself again and to rediscover his true life’s passion. Tom essentially learns that in order to find true love, he has to love himself first.

So why is 500 Days of Summer quite possibly the best film of our time? I think it’s because no matter who you are or what your life experience is, there is something that everyone can relate to in this film. Sure there have been many great films released in this new century, but no film has represented the voice of the audience quite the way this one has. Both times I saw this in the theatre, the audience applauded. I think they realized that Tom and Summer’s story was their story in some way.

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