20th Century Fox | 2009 | 95 mins. | Rated PG-13
Rarely can it be said that a romantic comedy is one of the best films of the year. With (500) Days of Summer, director Marc Webb brought a new spark and tone to a genre that is often brought down by overused clichés and reheated plots. Leaving behind juvenile pranks, and the all too common plot device of the man who doesn’t want to settle down, instead, Webb and screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber produced a story recognizable to anyone who’s ever been in love. Honest and emotional, I remember feeling like (500) Days of Summer was one of the freshest, sweetest comedies I’d seen in years as I walked out of the theater.
The unseen narrator tells us right up front that this is indeed a story of boy meets girl, it is not a love story. It is, however, a story about love — its painful truths, its exhilarating highs, and the inconvenient fact that while she may be The One for you, you might not be The One for her.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as Tom, a greeting card writer and aspiring architect, who loves The Smiths and all forms of mopey Brit-rock. Steadfast in his belief that he won’t be truly happy until he meets the one, his life changes when he meets co-worker Summer (Zooey Deschanel). She’s adorable, she’s cool, she’s funny and she likes the same music as Tom—they seem to be the perfect match, but the audience knows from the start this is a doomed relationship. It’s in the title, the relationship lasts 500 days.
Told in non-linear fashion, beginning on day 488 of Tom and Summer’s relationship, the film is freed to jump back and forth between spots on the calendar. More than a gimmick, style of narrative lets us in on the way love grows, fades, and grows. One minute we’re watching Tom and Summer on day 50 goofing around at IKEA—“I don’t know how to tell you this,” Tom says, “but…there’s a Chinese family in our bathroom.”—the next we’re with them in a furniture store on day 300, when Tom tries to pull the same faucet gag which got a giggle out of Summer back on day 50, only this time with very different results.
Summer, we are told by our narrator, is the type of woman with whom men have always fallen in love. Cool, pretty and intelligent with a girl-next-door quality, she’s everything the average guy hopes for, and a mother wants for his son. There’s one big problem though; after experiencing her parents’ divorce as a child, Summer does believe in true love. She does not believe in The One.
Despite their philosophical differences, the two manage to maintain a caring, fun-filled relationship. They reveal long held secrets to one another, and share lazy Sundays in bed; everything you would expect from a blooming relationship. Along the way is some of the smartest dialogue written for a romantic comedy in a very long time. Right from the start, Summer insists she’s not looking for anything serious, but there are moments when she and Tom seem so connected they appear destined to be together.
A strain develops in the relationship because Tom finds himself more in Love with Summer than she is with him (we are already aware of this issue because the events have been shown out of sequence.) While what happens from there is obvious, to see it played out in such a complete and realistic fashion is a refreshing change. It really seems as though the filmmakers tried to make a film about how people truly think and feel, which sadly, is all too rare these days. (500) Days of Summer is just one of those films that someone gets it right. You’ll know what I mean once you’ve seen it.
(500) Days of Summer comes to Blu-ray with a 2.40:1 framed, 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer that’s almost as sweet as the film. While (500) Days isn’t exactly the sharpest contemporary film available on Blu-ray. That’s not to say it’s dull, because fine detail is definitely more than adequate, but the overall look is a little soft at times. However, this is a gorgeously shot film, with a very deliberate color palette that’s almost devoid of primaries, but presents a pleasing spectrum nonetheless. With few exceptions, the image is comprised of neutral tones like off-whites, beiges, and grays, and whenever Summer is present, the film allows a few bold splashes of blue to match her big, beautiful eyes. Black levels are nice and tight while preserving plenty of detail in the shadows, and the well-tuned contrast gives the image a pleasing sense of depth and presence. Fine grain is apparent, though minimal, and even the window boxed sections shot on 16mm look great. Thankfully, there are no compression issues or other anomalies to be found.
(500) Days of Summer comes to Blu-ray with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix that is heavily front centered. While it doesn’t take advantage of the surrounds as much as one might like, this a dialogue heavy film so it’s not much of a drawback. Surrounds are called into play when Mychael Danna’s musical score is heard, and does a fine job prioritizing it. Dialogue is always clear and concise, so while this track isn’t reference quality material; it does what it’s asked to do.
English and Spanish subtitles are included.
(500) Days of Summer includes the following special features:
• Commentary by Director Marc Webb, Writer Michael Weber, Writer Scott Neustadter, and Actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt Laid back and entertaining, the participants give their thoughts on acting, directing and the story itself.
• Last Days of Summer: Deleted and Extended Scenes (1080i, 14:42 total) There are nine scenes in total, available with optional commentary by Director Marc webb, writer Michael Weber, writer Scott Neustadter, and actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
• Not a Love Story: Making (500) Days of Summer (1080i, 29:21) This Blu-ray exclusive documentary is a comprehensive look at the film’s production, with a special emphasis on the thought that went into the cinematography, costuming, and set design. The piece includes interviews with director Marc Webb, writers Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, and others.
• Summer at Sundance (1080i, 13:46) We get to follow director Marc Webb around The Sundance Film Festival and eventually to the (500) Days of Summer’s premiere, where it received a standing ovation.
• Audition Tapes (SD) Includes brief tapes for Geoffrey Arend (4:23) and Matthew Gray Gubler (2:38), with optional commentary by director Marc Webb.
• Summer Storyboards (SD) Two storyboard sequences: Summer Effect (1:36) and Reality/Expectations (1:55). By pressing the “angle” button on your remote you can switch between storyboards and a storyboard to film comparison. Available with optional commentary by director Marc Webb.
• Bank Dance Directed by Marc Webb (SD, 4:18) A music video for one of Zooey songs, shot inside one of the banks that was robbed in Set It Off.
• Mean’s Cinemash: “Sid and Nancy / (500) Days of Summer” (1080p, 3:28) Playing off the Sid and Nancy reference in the film, director Marc Webb put together this little mash-up, which features Joseph Gordon-Levitt playing Nancy, in a bad wig, and Zooey Deschanel as Sid, with a Cockney accent.
• Music Video: Sweet Disposition by The Temper Trap (SD, 4:01)
• Conversations with Zooey and Joseph (SD, 12:26 total) In these brief conversational promos, Zooey and Joseph talk about acting versus reality, the creative process, their favorite spots in L.A., Los Angeles in general, karaoke, and music.
• Filmmaking Specials (SD) First up are four brief Behind (500) Days of Summer featurettes, in which director Marc Webb talks about casting Zooey and Joeseph (2:07), the “Summer Effect” (1:35), the French film references (00:58), and the intentional color palette (1:11). Next, we have two segments of Fox Movie Channel Presents, In Character with Zooey Deschanel (2:38) and In Character with Joseph Gordon-Levitt (3:08).
• Trailers Includes high definition trailers for Amelia, Fame, and Adam.
• The second disc in the set is the digital copy of the film. There are enclosed instructions for installing it on PC and Mac devices.
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