(500) DAYS OF SUMMER
Thomas, don't go. You're still my best
Commentary by Tony McRae
Guy meets girl.
Guy loves girl.
Girl likes guy.
Girl and guy like being together.
Guy wants girl to love
Girl says goodbye.
Except for that last "goodbye" line, this sounds
like an old pre-WW2 happy-ending movie. You know, those wonderful screwball
comedies of the 30s and 40s where Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn or Barbara Stanwyck
and Henry Fonda sideslip romantic love in favor of wisecracks
and wackiness that gets them somehow back together. This is what I
was expecting from Marc Webb's "(500) Days of Summer."
First there's the "five hundred days" structure:
the film is divided into Days, but not chronologically, jumping forward and backwoods, keeping us on our toes.
For example, Day #10
is followed by Day #255 followed by Day #74, and so on. On Day #1
Tom Hansen (played by Joseph Gorden-Levitt) meets Summer Finn (played by the effervescent Zooey Deschanel),.
He's hooked. Even when Summer tells him she does not want more than a
relationship built on pleasure and friendship, he still expects her to
come around. After having seen so
many films of this type, we too presume Summer will see the light and succumb to
Tom's persistence. After
all, happy endings are de rigeur in this type movie.
The movie's structure forces us to reorganize the storyline
into a meaningful whole, which is a sly move on director Webb's part, for
it gets us involved in the lives of both characters. Since the story
is told from Thomas's perspective, we tend to root for him in his efforts
to convince Summer that he's her man. Zooey Deschanel's Summer is a
complex woman whose resistance is matched by Thomas's
At one point, Summer appears to be caving in. Thomas
is walking on air, so much so that as he strolls through the park,
his euphoria becomes so contagious that people begin following
him. There's even a band that celebrates his happiness. It's a
hilarious and heartwarming moment, a cinematic trope of a young man in
The film's structure also has another intent: while we
identify with Thomas and his love for Summer, the skipping between past
and present gives us pause. Perhaps Summer is not so fickle; she may
have good reason not to commit to a permanent relationship, at least one
with Thomas. Zooey Deschanel is perfect as the illusive
Summer. Her eyes can convey what Shakespeare called "wondrous
strange," and Marc Webb uses both editing and color to bring this
As I watched Zooey Deschanel's character exude liveliness
and sexuality, I was reminded of two Woody Allen women, Annie Hall in
"Annie Hall" and Tracy in "Manhattan." Diane
Keaton's Annie is both screwbally and serious. Mariel Hemingway's
Tracy is unaffected and not as innocent as we might think. Both are
on their way to self-discovery. Woody winds up with
Thomas and Summer are also in the process of
self-discovery, which implies a happy ending of sorts, though not with one
This is romantic (adult) comedy at its best.