Thursday, 18 February 2010

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - (500) Days Of Summer

For all intents and purposes, (500) Days Of Summer is the kind of movie that typically I should absolutely hate. Romantic comedies in truth, whilst I am completely open to watching any genre of film if it is good, are among my most loathed genres of film. Every time one of these films rolls in my direction, my eyes roll up to the sky, wishing that some God will whisk the existence of these clich├ęd dribblesome bores of films away from my presence. However, that wish never comes true, and it is always one of those great annoyances that you just have to put up with in life. Kind of like the British monarchy, but even still, dreams can come true. All in due time, all in due time. Anyway, despite being a rom-com, (500) Days Of Summer has been getting much critical acclaim as a movie that is genuinely good and defies the expectations of the genre which it has unfortunately been entrenched in and associated with. It is the debut film by music video director Mark Webb, and using a non-linear narrative structure, depicts through the memory of Tom Hansen, played by Joseph-Gordon Levitt, and the tale of his failed romance with Summer Finn, played by Zooey Deschanel. Now, being a music video director, Webb does direct with a prominent music-video sensibility. The film is very stylised in its direction, chopping back and forth between the various stages in the twos relationship quite well. However, I believe that the film's real power and strength comes from the central performances of Levitt and Deschanel. Joseph-Gordon Levitt has proved himself beforehand in the likes of 2006's Brick as one of independent cinemas most interesting young actors, and his performance here only further hammers in the point. Portraying Hansen as a real charmer, his performance causes us to really warm to this character. It is this charm that makes us really overlook what could be considered idealistic complexes in his persona. If both were separate in Levitt's performance, it would be very one-note and boring to watch, but Levitt is obviously aware of the necessity to remain charming while injecting his character with some very human aspects in order for us to empathise with him and have him be endeared with the audience. These same qualities shine through with Deschanel, although Deschanel performance of her character is done differently. Deschanel portrays the outward, shining exterior persona of Summer intelligently, but also doesn't forget the obvious vulnerabilities of her character. As opposed to Levitt, who plays a character more true to himself, Deschanel intelligently plays a double-sided coin, with her actions speaking volumes about the character's true nuances, a real case of "it's as much about what you don't say that matters." A great help to the actors' strong performances is the script by Scott Neustadter and Michael H Weber. The dialogue and interactions between Tom and Summer is among the best written of the year. Containing both fantastical, dreamlike qualities which give the film a theatrical element, it also does not avoid some very human and emotional exchanges. The portrayal of love as a wild, unpredictable rollercoaster I feel is a very wise thing on the film-makers part, for love is an absolute question that no one person can pin an answer on to. As such, leaving the question open for audience interpretation is a very wise thing to do. Also, the non-linear structure is not just a fancy narrative device in order to fill in the gaps and serve as a lazy excuse to make the film more entertaining. It mirrors the unpredictability of life and human interaction, and completely adds to the emotional power of the film. In a chronological order, the film would be far less entertaining and emotional. It is absolutely terrifying that the two writers of the wonderful script also scribed The Pink Panther 2. I suppose stranger things have happened, I mean, we've seen Freddy Got Fingered, haven't we? Don't get me wrong though, Tom Green has got way too much flak for that movie, it's really quite funny. I'm really in a minority on this one though. Nevertheless, (500) Days Of Summer is certainly one of the best romance movies I have seen in a long time. However, the film does have the odd problem that stops it from being a masterpiece. Unfortunately, despite strongly portraying humanity and love, the film in itself is way too over stylised in its way of doing so. Now, I have no problem with its narrative structure in any way, it works brilliantly. However, Webb as director does not seem to have completely made the transition comfortably to feature film. There's no doubt talent here, but it does often feel like an extended music video. For starters, the narrator could be completely done away with. It's once again one of those audience retardation devices, telling us expositional details that we already know and understand. Not everything has to be explicitly said. Also, some of the montage sequences do not work very well into the plot, and just seem like the film-makers are trying to make a hip romance movie that defies genre expectations: it already has! You do not have to try and make it hip and cool. These sequences and the odd little nod of breaking the fourth wall prove to be real annoyances, disconnecting us from the reality of the situation. I just feel that they have really overdone it in the stylistic department. They are little things and annoyances that unfortunately add up. Nevertheless, it does not change the fact that it is one of my favourite films of the year and I really enjoyed it, and I personally ask any stiff upper-lipped tough guy not to enjoy this film. This is a movie that everyone can enjoy, and I really defy you not to.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 8.6/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnois - Charmed

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