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500 Days of Summer


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this chick really teed me off.

Me too. I think that's very intentional; Summer is very much in the tradition of Holly Golightly and Sally Bowles. In the original script, before the film was cast, Summer was even worse. They actually softened her personality once Deschanel came on board. So it was always going to be a film about a very unhealthy relationship.

Did anyone else think this was a Lost in Translation for the kids? I kind of did. Lots of similarities, including the karaoke.

I can see that.

My favorite moment of (500) DAYS OF SUMMER? The "art film."

Edited by Ryan H.
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Did anyone else think this was a Lost in Translation for the kids? I kind of did. Lots of similarities, including the karaoke.

I can see that.

My favorite moment of (500) DAYS OF SUMMER? The "art film."

Yeah, the "art film" was pretty funny too. Especially when Gordon-Levitt got in a Bergmanesque chess match with a little girl angel at the beach. I believe they even got the Swedish right, although their accent is probably as bad as mine. I liked the "art film" as much as the dance number or the split screen at the end.

I think this film is geared toward a younger audience, and perhaps even an audience experienced with this kind of frustration. Us old fogies here are mostly married and many of us tried to avoid these types of relationships in the first place, so we'd really have no experience or clue when it comes to remembering this kind of relationship frustration, and even if we'd been through something like this in our younger dating years, it was so long ago that its unfair to review the film for its intended audience.

If I were a college kid thinking I was studying hard and learning it all, I am certain I would find (500) Days brilliant... That is, if I were a non-film college student. You know, some kid just studying generals or philosophy and thinking they're a hot shot.

The film kids no doubt would have scoffed. And not because it is a bad film, as much as scoffing is what the film kids are best at.

The split screen is a great way to try to look at the story with (general studies) college kid eyes, as well. The whole "expectations vs. reality," the disappointment with said reality, the split sliding into utter realist despair, and then reality consuming the main male character to a point where he runs out in the street and simply disappears into a filmic still. And isn't that what life at these parties, as a male, in love with a girl, sometimes is?

Standing in the corner in defense of (500) Days, I will say this: It gives a good picture of what it looks like to be a young American male really in love. Not in lust as most are, and as most are pictured. But in love, or at least consumed by the thought that he might be. It also gives a great picture of a young American male who is lovesick, wondering why, how, where this deal went wrong.

I guess the comparison to Lost in Translation isn't all that brilliant, only because I bought LiT for $3 Big Bucks at Big Losts! last week and just finihed re-watching it less than a week ago. If I'd come up with that comparison without the recent revisit, I might be considered PTC-lite. :)

But there are some huge similarities, and even in the dialogue itself, I am sticking to not only LiT comparisons, but LiT for the kids comparisons. I mean, can you imagine a conversation about a "blow-job" or a "hand-job" (gosh I hate those words and I'm sorry I'm listing them here) in Lost in Translation? Those kind of jokes are for the kids, like Harold and Kumar jokes... (Although that was a well-timed reply by Deschanel in her, "I'm stalking, I mean, I'm starvng" comment, and with her cute, curled smile it worked perfectly. I liked that little exchange so much I watched it three times.)

But here are some other similarities that make me wonder whether the makers had LiT for the kids in mind: Alcohol played a huge role in LiT and it definitely fits into both points of joy and need for escape here; one of their friends gets in trouble at karaoke; you know they won't be with each other in the end, and if the film does let them stay as a couple, it has cheated itself; by making the main character an out-of-work architect they are embracing the skyline of the city as much as the untranslatable Tokyo of LiT; each film ends with a "cheating" on the other partner; and each film ends with the idea that marriage is separating two people who have clearly had enough common ground to merit a decent relationship. I suppose one huge difference being that in LiT, both characters seemed to desire this outside-of-the-marriage-covenant relationship, but in (500) Days, only one does, for quite some time, but I think at the end both are willing to give it up.

It's hard to give Netflix stars to a film like this. I would imagine I'll have the same reaction to both Whip It and Post Grad, although I doubt these two are quite as surprisingly well thought-out as (500 Days) was. But honestly, how do old farts like us rate these films that are realistically marketed to a younger suburban target audience that doesn't care what the old fogies think?

Edited by Persona

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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Yeah, the "art film" was pretty funny too. Especially when Gordon-Levitt got in a Bergmanesque chess match with a little girl angel at the beach. I believe they even got the Swedish right, although their accent is probably as bad as mine. I liked the "art film" as much as the dance number or the split screen at the end.

I think the little angel is supposed to be Cupid, no?

And as for target audience, I'm 27 and single. Reflecting on what has happened with my own relationships and conversations with other single friends, I absolutely loved watching this. It's in the number 4 slot on my end-of-the-year list. So maybe it is largely an age thing.

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Yeah, the "art film" was pretty funny too. Especially when Gordon-Levitt got in a Bergmanesque chess match with a little girl angel at the beach. I believe they even got the Swedish right, although their accent is probably as bad as mine. I liked the "art film" as much as the dance number or the split screen at the end.

I think the little angel is supposed to be Cupid, no?

And as for target audience, I'm 27 and single. Reflecting on what has happened with my own relationships and conversations with other single friends, I absolutely loved watching this. It's in the number 4 slot on my end-of-the-year list. So maybe it is largely an age thing.

Cupid. Yes. How could I have missed that?

I'm glad you liked it, Stephen. I did too. I liked a lot of it, in fact, many of the ways it was put together were just plain fun. But I hated some of it too. And I think that is, at least, a part of the goal of the story. So I'm giving it a 4/5 instead of a three. I think what they intended to do, they accomplished.

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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I had forgotten about the Bergman-esque "art film" segment until it came up here just now. I am suddenly wondering how the scene in this film compares to the De Sica-esque "art film" segment in Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Sara and I just watched this tonight. We loved it.

But honestly, with a character with walls so high, and then, from out of the blue

she's married?!?

Well they did establish a very strong connection between Summer and Elaine Robinson, even showing a clip of the closing bus scene from The Graduate. Summer cried at The Graduate's ending (a strange reaction in my book). There were also a couple of other Graduate parallels throughout the movie, one of them transposing the two leads meeting on a bus in Berkeley (The Graduate) to the two leads meeting on an Amtrak train.

"If the Christian subculture exists primarily to condemn the world, you can be sure that Jesus is not having any part of it." - John Fischer

"Ignorance is excusable when it is borne like a cross, but when it is wielded like an axe, and with moral indignation, then it becomes something else indeed." - Flannery O'Connor

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  • 2 months later...

To say, as I've said, that I hate this film is totally unfair to the film itself. I recant.

The fact is that I could love (500) Days of Summer if it weren't for the story, and for Summer herself. But it's not as if it wasn't fair in the first place: the narrator told us right from the start that Summer was no ordinary girl, and that this is not a love story. So it is somewhat our fault for reading genre conventions into it in the first place. That it breaks free of the litany of typical romcom fair, bursting out of its own conventions, should be applauded, not boo'd. So now instead of saying I hate it, I say, "I love to hate this film."

In fact I love to hate it so much that I bought a used copy for $4 BIG BUCKS at Blockbuster.

Outside of the heartbreaking, and (I still think) in some ways unfair, story -- and outside of the problematic nature of Summer herself -- there are so many good and fun things that happen here that it's actually quite hard to keep up with and list them all at once. It really does defy some of its own tradition, and I rather like that. It doesn't feel like you can smack a label on it. I like that, too. The undefinable quality might actually be one reason I initially reacted to it with such angst.

But what is it, if is really isn't a tried and true romcom? Like Citizen Kane, it belongs to no contemporary genre of its time. Like Pulp Fiction, the narrative shapes around a splintered and jumping timeline. Like the French New Wave, Godard in particular, it's exuberant in cinematic terms, at times tip toeing the line of all out expressionism. And like my favorite famous Dane, is simply screams to be noticed, and will sometimes even turn a trick or two to grab the eye.

I don't know exactly what to call it, but after a second and third viewing some things have crept up that I like:

* The Roving Timeline. It moves forward and backward, from sorrow to joy and back, from darkness to light and into the grays. We get the idea that this is bookended to our dissatisfaction. It doesn't make the ride any less enjoyable.

* The ability to parody and self parody. The dance number in particular just drives me nuts with love and admiration, particularly the little blue bird. The Godard and Bergman films within the film. The split screen and the expectations vs. reality. How two stories are told at once: one, the fictional, all things hoped for, the other, the actual, the "how it all went down." The screen is playing with the mind, creating a maze of havoc in the brain as we watch the "hope" and the "actual" play out in dual realities... And then, just after that the image of Tom walking away from the party, he slides into a gradual freeze and the picture descends into still frame, like an old photo. (I know this last scene is a tip of the hat to something, somewhere, I'm not quite sure just what.)

* The dry bits of comedy. "I'm stalking -- I mean, I'm starving!" Summer's smile and the beauty in her feminine ways. But, to quote Monaco in talking about Kramer vs. Kramer: "The woman... was, if not actually the villain, then certainly the source of the problem, and the focus was almost entirely on the sensitive and painful reaction of the man." Some of this pain is a little easier to swallow when watching Tom and his friends caught in a black and white documentary about their love lives. Comedic moments turn up time and again, which lessen the severity of the final blow.

* The soundtrack. Like the recent Whip It, or any good episode of House, a good soundtrack has the capacity to improve the material around it. Here it succeeds, and I've got some new tunes to hunt down.

* Autumn. Yes, it is a bit corny, but it fits. And the coy little smile and nod at the camera thing? That super old trick of moldy cheese from TV of ages past? Yeah, we get it. Ain't it all just so darn cute.

Like a novel about writing a novel or a movie about making a movie, (500) Days of Summer is actually the anti-romcom, eager to beat the platicity of a romcom into submission. It tells us Harry won't get to be with Sally, the Pretty Woman won't get Richard Gere, Clara Bow ain't all that "It" after all, and Nurse Betty will live alone and remain a nutter butter. The audience that rooted for the happy ending will leave empty handed and only the critics will wake up to take notice of the film as an anti-sensitive movie that defied even its target market.

In many ways, (500) Days of Summer feels like it knows it succeeds if you hate it. I've not loved hating a film this much in quite some time.

Edited by Persona

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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  • 4 months later...

I just finished watching this movie and one thing that struck me was how Tom was in a completely no-win situation here from day one. I can’t think other than that he has GOT to try to make it work. He’s into this girl, she likes him, likes hanging out with him, likes talking to him, likes making out with him, how can he think anything but, “I know she says she’s not looking for anything serious, but I can win this girl.” And so he’s got to try. It’s preordained, if he is any kind of man, and what turns out to be the wise decision would look, from the inside, like passivity and would be the kind of decision that I know that I would obsess about for years after the fact, wondering, “But what it I’d…?”

I also think that if she were a guy and Tom were the girl, all the girls I know would have completely hated his character for “being a jerk,” “leading her on,” or even “using her.” And I have little doubt but that the movie would have shown her/him in a light consistant with those sentiments. But as it is, I didn’t see the movie communicating any of that judgement.

Edited by Cunningham

Scott -- 2nd Story -- Twitter

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  • 1 year later...

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