Sat in the cinema this weekend, I saw trailers for two upcoming romantic comedies. One was called Valentine’s Day and stars Julia Roberts. It looks like America’s answer to Love, Actually (which itself was the answer to the question ‘What does 135 minutes of sugar-coated shit look like?’). The other was called Leap Year, which is about a rich girl taken out of her element and falling in love with a poor man. Either of them could easily be renamed Formulaic Bullshit: The Movie.
I try to avoid romantic comedies where possible, precisely because so many of them are so similar (and poor). It’s a shame, too, because some of my favourite films are rom-coms. Sit me down in front of Annie Hall or Chasing Amy and you’ll have a satisfied reviewer on your hands. I decided to have a go with (500) Days Of Summer because of the presence of the usually reliable Joseph Gordon Levitt, but approached it with some trepidation.
I needn’t have worried, though, because (500) Days Of Summer is brilliant. It’s sharp, funny, dramatic. It’s just all round good. Of course, two sentences don’t constitute a full review (apparently), so let’s look at the film in a little bit more depth.
The film charts the relationship between romantic spirited Tom, a greetings card writer by trade and an architect by ambition, and the pragmatic Summer, who meets Tom whilst working as an assistant in his office.
Told in a non-linear style, the film draws parallels between the start and finish of their courtship. It’s ambitiously put together and works exceptionally well. Director Marc Webb has done a great job of taking what could have been a very pedestrian indie film and producing an interesting and engaging movie. He’s being touted as a candidate for the upcoming Spider-Man reboot now (and confirmed since this review was written). I think that could work.
Whilst it’s not riotously funny, the film has some gags that work well. The author’s note that kicks the film off is a great way to introduce the film, perfectly setting the tone and raising a chuckle. Another big laugh comes from the scene where Tom’s work output is questioned by his boss, having turned in some highly inappropriate valentines cards. The film is more amusing than flat out funny, but it works well.
(500) Days Of Summer‘s strongest asset is its cast. Zooey Deschanel makes it entirely believable that Tom would fall in love with Summer, despite how she often treats him. She’s sweet and seemingly unaware of much of what’s going on around her, yet clearly troubled beneath the surface. Joseph Gordon Levitt is brilliant and in his care Tom’s more maudlin moments never appear whiney, while his happier moments are great fun to watch. His performance in the ‘morning after’ scene is particularly good, and adds to the best sequence of the film. The chemistry between the two leads gives the film an authentic feel.
The film does have a few problems. The narrator is entirely unnecessary and his infrequent appearances interrupt the flow of the film. Similarly, the relationship between Tom and his wise-beyond-her-years younger sister doesn’t quite work. Some of the other supporting characters seem a little thin, too.
However, these are minor blemishes on what is a very enjoyable film. If you’re feeling jaded by the sewage-ridden wave of rom-coms that have been flushed into your local multiplex over the past few years, I couldn’t recommend (500) Days Of Summer strongly enough.
The picture transfer for this film is fine. It’s not the most testing material for your Blu-ray player, but it looks good throughout. Sounds good too. As a new release it’s unlikely that the film would look any less than good.
As far as extra content goes, there’s some cool stuff included. A great short film/music video featuring the film’s stars, Joseph Gordon Levitt and Zooey Deschanel (whose band She and Him provide the music) called ‘Bank Dance’, is included and is directed by Marc Webb. He also lensed the amusing promo video featuring the film’s two stars as Sid and Nancy (which makes sense if you’ve seen the film). The disc is rounded out with some interviews between Levitt and Deschanel, a fairly dull music video and some deleted and alternative scenes.
I do have one major complaint, though, in that the disc is missing some of the features from the US disc. Not just nonsense fluff, either. We’re missing the making-of and a commentary track. As the US Blu-ray release is region locked, it’s either an import DVD or settle for this inferior version of the Blu-ray. Frustrating.
(500) Days of Summer is out now on Blu-ray and available from the Den Of Geek Store.