Monday, August 10, 2009

Movie Review - (500) Days of Summer

As a way of preview and introduction for the day's bloggery, we're going to have two reviews (the first of which lies beneath) and the insanely popular (meaning not popular at all) haiku recap of the box office tomfoolery. I'm trying to be more organized and informative and I assume that everyone needs to know my blogging plans so as to best adjust theirs.

First up is my look at (500) Days of Summer which is, you know, okay. Here's the thing, people were actually calling this movie "original" and "innovative," but that's a load of shit. I mean, it would be like changing the color of a pair of shoelaces and claiming you've reimagined footwear. Yeah, there's like two minor interesting elements, but they are executed with the utmost slavish devotion to preexisting rom-com structure and requirements that even the "I'm sad" montage is included. Hell, I could list about 10-20 or more cliches that are sandwiched in there that I couldn't get to in the review proper. This isn't to say that it's a BAD film. Good Lord, there's a Katherine Heigl movie out there that would argue with any negative assessment of this well-intentioned flick. Plus, it's basically like 95 minutes of Zooey Deschanel worship, which I'm pretty okay with. Anyway, enough introduction, here's the review.

Summer Reruns
(500) Days may cause seasonal repeat depression

Watching 95 minutes of extreme, soft-focused close-ups of Zooey Deschanel is like being shot in the face with a cuteness cannon filled with kittens and babies; it’s not unpleasant but after awhile, you still want it to stop. Director Marc Webb is so (understandably) infatuated with the Kewpie doll cutie that any originality contained in Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber’s script is overpowered by a full-scale adorable assault…which is fine really, considering (500) Days of Summer has about a thimble-full of new ideas.

After a never-welcome voice over that informs the audience who has come to see a romantic comedy that “this is not a love story,” the film introduces Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a character without a single interesting molecule. Tom is a wanna-be-architect who writes greeting cards because the screenwriters felt he needed a quirky occupation, but he also wears skinny ties and listens to The Smiths, so audiences know he’s hip. Tom believes in true love; Summer (Deschanel) doesn’t, which is unfortunate because Tom believes that Summer is his.

Using a microscopically clever technique of flipping back and forth chronologically over the course of the 500 days that Summer occupies Tom’s life, several things are revealed: (1) Tom is boring and his friends are even more boring, (2) similar interest in 1980s-era punk is not the basis for a lasting relationship and (3) cuteness be damned, Deschanel’s character is the freakin’ devil.

Sporting a brief hand-sketched sequence, a split-screen segment that shows a dichotomy of what Tom expects to happen and what actually does and not one but two Regina Spektor songs, (500) Days tries hard to hipster-up what is actually a quite conventional rom com. When it works, it does so because the theme of an unbalanced relationship power structure is universal and because the leads are fun to look at. At the risk of revisiting a politically potent cliché, this is little more than a lipstick-wearing pig.

At this point, finding an original idea for a love-and-laugh picture may be more elusive than finding the perfect mate. There’s nothing really wrong with (500) Days of Summer, and considering that its chief cinematic competition right now is the ghastly The Ugly Truth, it’s a downright suitable companion. However, cute exteriors (even Deschanel’s) can only captivate so long before they are rejected, forgotten in favor of fresher fare.

Grade - C

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