Group Review: 500 Days of Summer

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(500) Days of Summer

The three of us -- Debbie, Jenn and Jette -- enjoyed doing the group review of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince so much that we decided to try it again with the romantic comedy (500) Days of Summer, which is opening in Austin today. Jenn and Jette caught the movie at SXSW, where it closed the festival this year; Debbie just saw it this week. What did we think?

Let's start with Jenn Brown this time:

(500) Days of Summer was certainly a hit at SXSW this year, and surprisingly, guys with allergic reactions to romantic films of any sort were raving about it. It's a flawed but worthy tale, spiced up by jumbling the story, skipping randomly through the relationship from initial crush to beyond, even when stumbling over cliched plot devices.

The story is as simple as its tagline: Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love. Girl doesn't. What makes it refreshing is that it's not only a bit of role reversal, at least by Hollywood standards, but focuses on the bittersweet aspects of romance. And there are few actors more engaging as Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who always completely and enthusiastically embodies the roles he plays. Zooey Deschanel, as Summer, has some chemistry with Gordon-Levitt, but had more verve in Elf than she does in this role, making the object of affection not as believable as it might.

All that said, it's refreshing to see a rom-com that men enjoy as much as women.

Jette Kernion checks in:

It's only fair to reveal that I didn't see (500) Days of Summer under ideal circumstances. I was squashed into a Paramount seat next to a rather big-and-tall stranger, and the poor guy had nowhere to put his legs except where mine were supposed to go. So I was contorting myself in tortuous ways half the time, and therefore wasn't in the best mood. (Next time, I promise to sneak up to the balcony instead.)

I appreciate romantic comedies that are trying to do something new and fresh with a decidedly stale genre. I'm weary of the same plot where the couple meet and maybe don't like each other, but are thrown together anyway, and near the end of Act Two they have a misunderstanding but somehow, usually in a wacky fashion, manage to get together by the end of the film and live happily ever after.

(500) Days of Summer messes with that structure, which is a wonderful change of pace. We get samples of the relationship from Day 1 to Day 500, but not in that order. We begin with a forlorn Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who wants to reunite with his one true love Summer (Zooey Deschanel), and jump back and forth from there. Very clever and cute.

However, despite the nontraditional aspects of the movie, I still didn't get very excited about it. The main characters didn't have much personality -- I loved Gordon-Levitt in The Lookout, but here he has little to do than act alternatively schmoopy and depressed. And Deschanel keeps getting cast in these Manic Pixie Dream Girl characters where she is supposed to look cute and act delightfully quirky but has very little depth. Those characters start to grate on me after awhile.

(500) Days of Summer is a cut above the usual Hollywood cookie-cutter romantic comedies -- at least the potential lovers aren't mean and humiliating to one another -- but I wished it was better than it was. Maybe I should see it again in a more comfortable seat, but I wasn't quite interested enough to give it a second shot.

And now for Debbie Cerda:

I am in agreement with Jenn - what made this bittersweet romantic comedy for me was Joseph Gordon-Levitt. His embodiment of a hopeless romantic is genuine, and endears viewers to his character. Zooey Deschanel's character lacks depth and is secondary to the story. I rather enjoyed some of the more nontraditional sequences enmeshed in this film, reminiscent of one of my favorite romantic films, Amélie, as well as the "That's How You Know" song and dance sequence in the park from Enchanted. The musical diversity of the soundtrack fits well.I especially enjoyed that the music included a song from an Austin band, Spoon's "The Infinite Pet."

(500) Days of Summer doesn't have the romantic Hollywood ending, but still leaves viewers smiling and laughing as they identify with the love and life lessons learned by Tom.