Rom-Coms Get a Refreshing Spin in (500) Days of Summer
- Friday, July 31, 2009
If the movie's goal were simply to be another product of the studio machine, all of this would be forgivable (even if not necessarily bearable). That it aspires to something more authentic requires more thought, effort and nonconformity than Webb and his screenwriters are able to provide. It's refreshing and even effective to see all of the chances they take stylistically (indeed, the movie has its share of inspired moments), but for a romance that boasts the courage to not be your standard love story, well, it's not enough.
But thankfully, it doesn't pull its punches when it really counts. Certainly one of the film's advantages is that, despite fidelity to formula, its very premise maintains a very real (and rare) sense of suspense and mystery. We really don't know how this is going to end. It legitimately could go either way. That—coupled with the endearing chemistry of Gordon-Levitt and Deschanel along with Webb's creative flourishes—effectively makes up for the film's typical beats.
Best of all, it ends strong. Having the courage to stick to its core thematic audacity, the final narrative stretch transcends the film's conventional faults rather than falling prey to them. A late (and great) split-screen sequence that mirrors in real-time Tom's expectations for a party at Summer's apartment with the reality of what actually happens is not only an ingenious storytelling device, it rings powerfully true in all-too-identifiable ways. We've all lived this. We've all felt this. We have a dream of how something is going to unfold, and then those dreams are dashed at every moment. It hurts, it's real, and it's a defining moment.
I won't reveal how this relationship resolves other than to say, tonally, it's a mixture of the entire film; on one hand it really has the chutzpah to stick to its philosophical guns, yet doesn't quite have the guts to end when it should. Still, while it lacks the backbone to completely buck convention, its view of relationships and the realities of falling in love are remarkably honest. (500) Days of Summer doesn't completely break from its genre as it initially promises, but it definitely stands out within it—and for that not only is it worthwhile, it's actually kind of memorable.
- Drugs/Alcohol: Drinking alcohol (beer, vodka). Moments of inebriation.
- Language/Profanity: A fairly full range of profanities, although they're occasionally used rather than consistently. The most common is the "s"-word. The Lord's name is used in vain on a few occasions. One use of the "f"-word. In one scene, the word "penis" is repeated loudly in a public park. Also some sexually suggestive references (see below).
- Sexual Content/Nudity: A slang reference to oral sex is made, as are explicit "second and third base-ish" type of references. A porn video is briefly heard (just panting) but not seen, and it is suggested that a couple re-enacts it behind a shower curtain in another brief moment, played for comedy. The terms "rack" and "whore" are used. A photograph of a bulging penis underneath tight jeans is briefly seen.
- Violence/Other: A brief fist-fight.
Jeffrey Huston is a film director, writer and producer at Steelehouse Productions in Tulsa, Okla. He is also cohost of "Steelehouse Podcast," along with Steelehouse Executive Creative Mark Steele, where each week they discuss God in pop culture.
To listen to the weekly podcast, please visit www.steelehouse.com or click here. You can also subscribe to "Steelehouse Podcast" through iTunes.
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