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DVD Review: (500) Days of Summer

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Marc Webb makes his directorial debut with (500) Days of Summer, a romantic comedy that manages to buck the trend of uninspired messes that are typically associated with that much maligned genre.

(500) Days of Summer stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Brick, 10 Things I Hate About You) as Tom, a hopeless romantic who has been searching for the love of his life since adolescence. Tom is a greeting card writer living in Los Angeles, and one day his boss gets a new secretary named Summer, played by Zooey Deschanel (Elf, Yes Man). Tom thinks Summer is his one true love as soon as he lays eyes on her. Unfortunately for Tom, Summer doesn’t believe in true love. As the tag line puts it, this is not a love story. Rather, this is a story about love.

The narrative unfolds non-sequentially, flashing forward and backward throughout the 500 days of the relationship between Tom and Summer. This instrument works really well, as it is fun to see Tom madly in love with Summer one minute when the next scene (taking place five months later) shows him on a massive bender trying to forget all about her. After a particularly memorable evening, a full dance number in the street erupts, complete with a marching band and an animated little bird landing on Tom’s shoulder. Another high point comes when a split screen shows Tom’s expectations for the evening juxtaposed with the reality of what is happening. Each of these elements help separate this movie from the standard fare that has flooded the romantic comedy realm for far too long.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt proves why he is one of the brightest young stars in Hollywood with his performance as Tom. He magnificently portrays the elation of young love just as well as he portrays heartbreak and pain. The range displayed is impressive, and Tom’s massive fluctuation in feelings never comes off as gimmicky. This is due in large part to Zooey Deschanel’s performance as Summer. Deschanel does an outstanding job turning what could potentially be a flat character into an endearing, yet frustrating, wholly believable character.

This movie works because it is a fresh, fun, honest take on relationships. Audiences will be able to relate not only to Tom but also to Summer. The characters feel like real people, and chances are they will remind you of some romantic interests from your past. Also, the movie does a great job showing off some of the gorgeous architecture of L.A. that doesn’t often get a lot of screen time. The soundtrack and score are both well put together as well. All in all, this is one of the most entertaining movies of 2009.

The DVD includes a commentary by director Marc Webb, writers Michael Weber and Scott Neustadter, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. These three have good chemistry as they provide insight into the movie and make some good jokes along the way. Also included are “Lost Days of Summer: Deleted and Extended Scenes.” About 15 minutes long, these scenes have an option for commentary by the same quartet. Some of these scenes are almost identical to the cut featured in the finished film, while others provide a good example of extraneous content that needed to be removed. The highlight of these deleted scenes might be one that was featured in the trailer but snipped from the final movie where Tom sees Summer everywhere he goes.

The special features are a bit scarce. Some interviews with the cast would have been nice, but I really can’t give this DVD anything less than an overwhelming endorsement. Watch it and fall in love.

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