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[personal profile] richlayers
I just watched 500 Days of Summer, and I loved it, almost entirely.

Just to get it out of the way: Summer is stated as being average height (5'5") and average weight (121 lbs). Ummm what average? If that's the average--the middle--how skinny are our skinny girls these days? Under 100? That's just grotesque, and anyone in a Hollywood movie (even if it's Fox Searchlight) does not represent average. Thanks for perpetuating our unhealthy weight prejudices....

BUT other than that it was an amazing movie, full of lots of little moments that felt real and believable, and made more so by the fact that ... they don't stay together in the end. That in spite of all the perfect moments, as a whole relationship, they weren't working out, and for as long as it took Tom to figure it out, they weren't right for each other.

I think 500 Days of Summer succeeded where The Breakup failed. Remember The Breakup?

Marketed as an in-and-out of the theaters romantic comedy, yet actually about the bittersweet breakup of two people who can't quite find that place they started? Oh yeah, that unmemorable bit of fluff. Which is not to say it was particularly BAD on its own terms, just that I found the most memorable parts to be A) the bit with Jennifer Anniston taunting Vince Vaughn with her newly showered, naked body (which was in the trailer, sort of) and B) the sweet moment at the end, where they see each other after some time has passed, and (it's acted well enough that) you can see they both kind of wonder what life would be like if they'd stayed together, but they've both moved on and are happy with other things.

500 Days of Summer, by contrast, doesn't make the mistake, first of all, of putting all the funniest bits in the trailer. Compare those two trailers, if you will. 500 Days definitely has a few chuckle-worthy moments in their trailer, as does The Breakup. Yet I would dare to say those are the funniest bits of Breakup whereas 500 Days had me spitting up my drink in laughter, falling over sideways on the couch in laughter, and basically far more amused by a far more memorable movie, in general, than Breakup.

500 Days also sets you up, right from the beginning, to not know what to expect. "You should know up front, this is not a love story." Yet it is, in the truest sense. Sometimes we fall madly in love with someone, and ... it doesn't work out. That doesn't invalidate the moments that we're in love, it doesn't take them away, it's just ... life.

Breakup, from its very trailer, sets you up to think, "Oh, but they'll get together in the end. This is going to be a funny movie!" And it has its moments of humor, but like I said, the funniest parts are all there in the trailer, and the rest of the movie is the painful grinding down of a relationship, until at the end, we're left with nothing but a little moment of nostalgia.

But not to put 500 Days completely in the context of Breakup:

500 Days's unusual format lets us skip around, starting with the breakup (a little before day 400ish if I recall correctly) and jumping back through all the good moments. Those moments evolve through repetitions, the most notable being the scene in a record store where Tom makes fun of Summer for liking Ringo Star, then finding her a Ringo Star vinyl, whereupon she smiles at him. Then we see the scene again, and see her start to turn away, her smile fading in something like disappointment/sadness. Then the last time we see the scene, him making fun of her, her smile, which fades as she turns away, her pulling away from his hand as they leave the store, and then he suggests they go get waffles, and we understand that this is what led up to the breakup at the beginning of the movie.

Alternatively there is a set of shots of Summer that are shown exactly the same, twice, but with a voiceover from Tom each time. The first time it's "I love her knees, and the way she licks her lips sometimes before she speaks." The second time: "I hate her knobby knees, and the way she smacks her lips before she talks." The film highlights memory and perspective, and how fleeting and arbitrary our emotions can be.

There are no unexpected plot twists, and although the structure of the movie is unusual, it doesn't come off as gimmicky. It's a simple, sweet story about love and how we remember people.

Honestly, I think it's one of the best, most brilliant relationship films out there, because it wasn't afraid to say: "Sometimes we think we've found the one, and fall madly in love... and sometimes we are wrong."


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