(500) Days of Summer
Written by: Michael H. Weber & Scott Neustadter
Directed by: Marc Webb
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt & Zooey Deschanel.
First rule of fiction-making: the telling of the story affects the story itself.
This, it seemed to me, was the main lesson to be learnt after hearing Tom & Summer's story. Sure, the film centers around a romantic relationship, but its emphasis on (re)playing, (re)visiting, revising and repeating anecdotes, images and little moments throughout make this one of the most accomplished (post)modern "stories about love" (not a "love story") since Kauffman's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. For someone who is obsessed with Clementine and Joel's story, this is no empty praise. To attempt a plot synopsis would be to undermine the feel and intelligence of the script but, just as the trailer lets you know: this is a story about boy (Joseph Gordon-Levitt's Tom, a hopeless romantic waiting for the "one") meets girl (Zooey Deschanel's Summer, a free spirit realist), but this isn't your traditional "boy meets girl, happily ever after" film. The initial credits tell you this: "The following is a work of fiction and is not based on any real people. [next:] Especially you [insert name I can't remember]. [next:] Bitch."
That its plot seems at once fresh yet rooted in cliches shifts the emphasis from a simple "what's going to happen?" (cause you already know - especially if you've seen as many rom-coms and seen as much hopeless romantic TV as Tom has) to a "how is it going to be told?" That is not to say there are no surprising plot-twists (arguably the third act works because it throws a wrench in the works that's hard to surmise from our/Tom's perspective) but the film wows and wonders because it manages to tell an ordinary story in an extraordinary way, with impromptu dance sequences, hysterical karaoke sequences, wondrous split-screen scenes ("Expectations" vs "Reality"), inventive formal framing (that lovely sketched landscape) and a final line that will leave you utterly convinced that this is the must-watch Summer 2009 (date) film. A+