(500) DAYS OF SUMMER (2009)

This is a film that gets better the more you watch it; you pick up more humour, notice more subtleties, and absorb more of the cinematic quirkiness that makes this movie so much better than the typical romantic comedy. It stars Zooey Deschanel as Summer Finn, an irresistible girl whose unwillingness to commit makes her all the more attractive to the hapless Tom Hansen, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Both of these actors have that offbeat, indie appeal that makes one hope they'll keep away from the mainstream movies a while longer. (Zooey is the sister of Emily Deschanel, who stars in the American TV series Bones.) The movie jumps around in time, beginning from day 488 of Tom and Summer's relationship, immediately back to day one and everywhere in between. The popping back and forth gives the viewer not only a foreshadowing of what Tom is in for, but makes him seem just a little unstable as his moods swing from elated in the early days, to despondent in the later, not in any particular order. Just like him, we don't know whether to love Summer or hate her. Is she realistic in her view that love doesn't exist or is she in denial? Of course we want to root for love, but this story takes us down a slightly different road, one that doesn't rely on the same old boy meets girl conventions. This is no fairytale; rather a tale that reminds us that love will find us when we're ready, and that we might be happier without the Hollywood ending.

The cast is full of familiar faces, characters in Tom's life who try to keep him from getting his heart handed to him on a platter. Deschanel is enchanting in the lead role, and men love this film because of her - making it a romantic comedy that's not actually geared towards women. We don't know whether to love Summer or hate her. Is she realistic in her view that love doesn't exist or is she in denial? The story is told from a man's point of view and many men will relate to Tom's experience. But women love it too because it's a great story, very funny and very poignant. (Oh, and Gordon-Levitt is adorable.)

It is also very cleverly edited. In one scene Tom is elated because he has just spent his first night with Summer. As he's walking down the street to the beat of a snappy tune playing in his head, every stranger he passes gives him a high five or a pat on the back. They fall into step and perform a choreographed dance number together. A marching band chimes in, and a little animated bluebird comes to sit on Tom's hand. It's director Marc Webb's over-the-top way of showing us that Tom is feelin' really good. He steps into the office elevator, big grin on his face; the date snaps forward several months, and the elevator door opens on a Tom that is now (hilariously) a physical and emotional disaster. Another brilliant piece of editing shines in a scene where Tom goes to a party that Summer has invited him to. The screen splits. On one side the word "reality," is displayed, and on the other, "expectation". The two scenes play out simultaneously - one showing what really happens, while the other shows Tom's fantasy of what he hopes will happen. It's subtle but sensational comedy. The laughs come one after another in this film but none are cheap. This is not what you'd call a feel-good movie but the feeling it leaves you with is very, very nice.

Movie reviewed by Georgina Young-Ellis

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