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Blu-ray Review: (500) Days of Summer

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"Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love. Girl doesn't."

That is the tagline for (500) Days of Summer, the love story that isn't a love story. Perhaps it would be best described as a love story for the dumped. It is the sort of romance that helps reinvigorate the genre. It comes at it from a different perspective and injects a strong sense of reality into the proceedings.  It is very easy to believe that these are real people in a real relationship and everything that goes with it.

Now, I saw this when it was on the big screen and absolutely loved it. I was drawn into the relationship and truly felt for them. Going into watching this Blu-ray I have to admit that I was a little worried about how it would hold up upon multiple viewings. I was especially worried considering that it placed third on my "Favorite of 2009" list. My worries subsided a little bit as I looked at the case in my hands. As I looked at the cover and prepared to fire it up, memories of seeing it on the big screen came back.

Watching the movie a second (and third) time proved to be just as good as the first. It draws you in and holds you as Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) recounts the story of his doomed relationship with Summer (Zooy Deschanel). It is a great story of the search for love, and the question of whether or not it even exists. The movie is not about giving you the answers. It is about giving you reason to think about your beliefs and how there are no answers; that what happens will happen regardless of what you may believe or think to be true.

Early scenes show Tom and Summer slowly feeling each other out. You know, the tentative dance as you try to gauge the interest of the other party. In this case, the dance begins with an acknowledgment of the other's desires in a relationship. Tom believes in love and is looking for a long-term relationship. Summer does not believe in love, is not looking for a relationship, and finds Tom intriguing. They come to a common ground and the relationship begins to take shape.

It is fascinating to watch it develop, as their feelings change, grow, and adapt to new situations. The only thing is that Summer's original thoughts still form the basis of what she wants. Tom cannot quite handle it and things begin to fall apart. However, they do not just disintegrate — the relationship's decline becomes a learning experience as they both come to find their initial statements need to be adjusted. There is no one right answer.

One of the things I loved is how the film portrays the guy as being the emotional one. All too often it seems that the guy isn't allowed to express himself the way Tom does here. He is a believer in love, how often does that happen? Seriously?

The screenplay by the team of Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber is fantastic. What makes it even more interesting is the fact that approximately 70% of what happens in the movie actually happened. They actually had to send it to a couple of exes for approval, to make sure they wouldn't get sued! On top of that they fashioned it in a non-linear fashion which helps shake things up. The tale is told by Tom based on his memories, and memories can be fallible. This non-linearity changes the perspective of a number of scenes and gives everything an interesting flavor.

As good as the writing is, as fine as the directing is, I cannot help but feel that Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deshcanel make the movie. They have fantastic chemistry and are a joy to watch. Gordon-Levitt is not what you would call traditional leading man material, but he carries himself with great confidence, has definite charisma, and proves to be more than up to the task. He portrays a sympathetic character who is easy to like, and is easy to identify with. On the other hand Zooey Deschanel just lights up the screen with her smile and those blue eyes. It does not hurt that she is also a fine actress who carries herself well here as the independent woman. She is often characterized as the film's villain, but she is up front with what she wants and if you listen to her during the last scene, she reveals herself as being anything but. These characters are real. Real life is filled with gray areas, which is where these two live.

Audio/Video. The video is presented in 2.4:1 widescreen, with a couple of intentional shifts throughout. The image is clear with plenty of detail. It is a touch to the soft side, likely due to the subdued pastel color palette. While it is not a look that is going to knock your socks off in high definition, it is definitely noticeably better than your standard DVD. Besides, it works for the tone of the film. It is a very nice looking disk.

Audio is DTS-HD 5.1. It is not a standout track, but would you really expect that from a film like this? It delivers a nice balanced soundstage that is clearly centered in the middle for the dialogue-driven film. The surrounds are rarely engaged except for a little ambiance now and then, while the sub is relegated to soundtrack use only. Again, it is a fine track that serves the film well.

Extras. The Blu-ray comes with a selection of bonus features.

  • Commentary. The track features director Marc Webb, actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and writers Michael Weber and Scott Neustadter. It is a fun track as they talk about the shooting, the writing, the approach to the roles, and is fun and informative with no dead air.
  • Lost Days of Summer: Extended and Deleted Scenes. A selection of scenes that did not quite make the cut. These usually do not make much of an impact, but these are pretty good and worth checking out. They also have optional commentary.
  • Not a Love Story: Making of (500) Days of Summer. This featurette takes a look at the making of the film (duh), looking at the importance of set and costume design, plus the cinematography. It includes interviews with the director, writers, and stars along with some comments on love.
  • Summer of Sundance. Follow Marc Webb around the Sundance festival where the film premiered to a standing ovation. This is neat. You can tell he is excited about his first trip to Park City with a film to show.
  • Audition Tapes. Complete with optional commentary. We get to see Geoffrey Arend and Matthew Gray Gubler. We do not get enough of these.
  • Summer Storyboards. Two sequences (Summer Effect and Reality/Expectations) are given the storyboard treatment, complete with commentary from Marc Webb. I always like seeing these.
  • Bank Dance Directed by Marc Webb. This is a video for a song written by Zooey Deschanel set in a bank. I like her and the look of the video is pretty cool, but I cannot say I care much for her singing.
  • Mean's Cinemash: "Sid and Nancy/500 Days of Summer." This is fantastic! It takes the reference from the film and puts Joseph in a bad wig as Nancy and Zooey as Sid.
  • Music Video: "Sweet Disposition" by The Temper Trap. I am not familiar with the band, but this is a pretty cool tune from the film, just not a great video.
  • Conversations with Zooey and Joseph. This is a series of interview clips: Acting vs. Reality, Creative Process, Favorite Parts of LA, Karaoke, Los Angeles, Music. These are pretty cool. I like both of them and this features them discussing these topics across a diner table. They feel a little like webisodes.
  • Filmmaking Specials: Director Marc Webb on Casting Zooey and Joe, French Film Influences, two Fox Movie Channel clips: In Character with Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. This is a series of brief interview clips. Worth a watch but you will unlikely revisit.
  • Trailers. Included are Amelia, Fame, and Adam.

Bottom line. I love this movie. It is one of those romantic films that hits all the right notes and really connected with me. It is genuine, heartfelt and just works. I am not sure how else to put it. I have watched it a few times now and the charm and effect has not been lessened in the least. On top of that, this Blu-ray is a pretty nice release.

Highly Recommended.

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About Draven99

  • http://jeffgoins.myadventures.org Jeff Goins

    I really enjoyed this movie. Thanks for the review.

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    btw, I know