Sunday, July 26, 2009

(500) Days of Summer Vodcast Review

Day (2) of my vacation and I'm still working. I totally forgot to upload the latest vodcast with Katey. I was in Jersey this weekendand she was in San Diego for Comic-Con. But by the magic of my forgetfulness and technology and non-linear chronologies here we are together talking up (500) Days for you. So here it is...



If you've seen the movie at this point, we'd love to hear your opinions. Do you share Katey's mild reservations or did you fall for it (mostly) wholesale like me?
*

41 comments:

Tim said...

I wrote about this a few days ago on my site, but I agree with a lot of what Katey says in that the film plays well while you're watching it but sours a little upon further reflection. It reminded me a lot of Eternal Sunshine, only in Eternal Sunshine you understand intuitively why Jim Carrey would lose his mind over Kate Winslet. Here, like Katey said, Summer's just a cute girl who likes the Smiths, and it's not really enough to carry 200+ days of moping. I thought the whole greeting card tirade was a little obvious, too. Still, not a terrible way to spend a summer night.

Mike C said...

I fell for the film. Although I see the flaws now that Katie mentions them, I don't think they are as deep as she is making them to be.

On the idea that Summer is not fully developed, I think that is OK, because it is more about the idea of falling for the one, the destined one, that is reinforced more strongly by just developing the Tom character.

As you mentioned, there is so much that is relatable - I have played both the Summer and the Tom parts in former relationships. Also the different moods that can be brought about within the framework of a relationship from total elation to complete heartache are displayed brilliantly. Throw in a cool soundtrack that is integrated quite well into the film and overall, a big recommendation for this one.

J. Crew said...

What I thought was brilliant were two parallels that I noticed:

1) IKEA, it starts with the later trip to IKEA, when Tom makes a joke about the sinks and she ignores him. Later you find out, she was the one who originally made the joke.

2) What are we doing?, It starts at the end of their relationship when Summer says "What are we doing?" and Tom says, "Aren't you happy?" but we later find out that it was Tom who had originally asked the question, but for a totally different reason, and she asked him if he was having fun.

Ryan T. said...

Didn't watch the vodcast yet because my computer is having issues, but just wanted to pipe in since I saw the movie this past Saturday.

I fell for it. I fell for it hard. Love the non-linear storytelling and Joseph Gordon-Levitt is just a wonderful actor to watch. My friend and I are now working on a mock screenplay for "Part Vampire. Part Giant. VAGIANT."

Glenn said...

I haven't seen the movie so can't comment, but I like how you're now IN A PARK! Is that central?

adelutza said...

I did like the film, but I didn't expect that much praise for it . Just a romcom, nothing more, nothing less. Not that different from The Proposal if you ask me. But a good summer movie, nonetheless.

DJ said...

I mostly fell for it. There are some flaws, the more glaring ones pointed out by Tom, but the execution was just so perfect. And Gordon-Levitt! <3 My current BA win.

NATHANIEL R said...

Tom? anyway... hype is dangerous for any movie. i assume that sundance audience went bananas because

a) they like quirky* stuff
b) without expectations and in the middle of the dross that festivals sometimes carry... it's very slick and professional and confident. so it would definitely pop

*i don't think the term is a pejorative all by its lonesome.

but i still think it's quite a clever movie with one excellent film-elevating performance, one perfect-for-what-the-film-needed good performance and far more going on thought-wise and depth-wise than your average romantic comedy. which it's not... quite.

pomme said...

without connection with the blog,there is Ryan Reynold in photo for the 2nd times in a month! OMG it's terrible!

Janice said...

I love having the vodcasts with Katey - nice to have "the female perspective" (I know, I'm generalizing - perhaps "female presence" is more accurate?) She's smart - and very cute. Big plus. (I hope that doesn't offend her.)

Playing Devil's Advocate here (confession - haven't seen the film yet):
1) Mike C, I can see why the lack of a well-developed character in the female lead would be problemmatic for Katey. I know why it would be for me - how many films have I seen over the last 40 years where the female is underwritten and it's all about the guys? I'm not saying there might not be a reason here, but I understand that the film industry is dominated by men (directors, producers, etc.) that's not being sexist, that just is. They're the ones who get to decide what stories to tell, and what interests them. (If I really want women's stories, that, apparently is what the bookstore is for.)

2) Nat, your comments about this film at the end of the vodcast: "bright" "energetic" etc as reasons you loved it - I understand love is irrational, but your comments could have just as easily described Slumdog Millionaire, which I recall you being very cool about (I think you called it manipulative at one point?) Can you parse out why one earns your love and the other left you cool to its "charms"?

Mike C said...

Janice, I felt the underdevelopment of Summer almost has to occur for us as the audience to ride the same wave that Tom rides. If we knew more about Summer (i.e. know all her flaws), the emotional roller-coaster that he goes through would not have the same emotional punch.

Of couse, I see your point. You could make a different movie with the two main roles reversed and call the movie (500) Days of Tom, but that doesn't quite have the same ring to it.

jahs34 said...

I don't have speakers so i can't listen, but just wanted to say that Katey is a cutie.

Owen S. said...

I suppose I'm one of the few people who didn't like this movie. It's not that is a bad movie per say but it's just your typical romantic comedy but wrapped in an Urban Outfitters seal. The main problem I had with the movie is why does Tom like Summer? And why should we? Zooey Deschanel is cute and charming but she always seems to play the same characters and now I'm bored. Another main flaw is that a lot of the scenes didn't seem genuine to me. Him quitting his job, her crying at The Graduate, the breaking of the plates, etc. I didn't buy it. And why does the supporting cast of friends seem like they came out of a bad sitcom? And one last question: why was he so impressed that she liked The Smiths? Okay it's always fun when someone has the same tastes as you but he acted like he's never met anyone who's even heard of them. It's The Smiths! Every hipster girl who wears high waisted jeans listens to The Smiths.

Carl said...

I have a video-capable computer. I have speakers. Trust me...Katey is hot - all smart women are.

Walter L. Hollmann said...

Oh, I fell in love with this movie. We all argued about Summer's character development, with me taking the view that it doesn't matter, b/c it's really just about how Tom forces the idea of The One on her without knowing who she is. Saw it right after a similar breakup, too. Very cathartic.

Henry said...

10. Best movie of the year. And it's not even close...

NATHANIEL R said...

Janice in regards to your second question... i don't always view color and energy as pluses. I try not to view anything as unequivocal that is neither good nor bad in and of itself as an automatic plus. It's all in how the elements come together and how they inform the theme and work with the narrative and so on.

i thought the color was important here in reflecting Tom's moodswings / worldviews and i thought the energy was simply essential to keep the film afloat through all of its tangential stylistic choices and its jumbled chronology and even the subject matter itself. A film merely about someone being depressed that their relationship didn't work out would probably feel very familiar and dull.

i would never argue that slumdog didn't also have color and energy but I didn't respond well to the story (too easy / too much suspension of disbelief / too much. period.), i think FATE narratives are often very lacking in drama (i.e. it's going to happen the way it's going to happen so the stakes aren't very high in terms of whatever choices the characters make)

Most importantly I don't get swoony over romances wherein the woman is only a cypher/projection of the man's fantasy/ideal. In that way the two films have A LOT in common but (500) days understands that this form of romance is inherently false rather than something to root for.

make sense?

Nate said...

This is the second time Zooey and Joseph played lovers. The first was in "Manic".

Anyway, I liked the film. I didn't fall hard for it, just a bit. Joseph was great as usually. Zooey was adorable and charming as usual. I agree that Summer was underwritten, but I won't get into that. Overall it was a fun movie and I thought it was slightly different from the usual romcoms.

Janice said...

Actually it does make sense, Nathaniel and thank you for taking the time to respond to my question Nathaniel! I think the one "flaw" of the vodcasts is that I miss the that depth of analysis that makes your reviews so smart.

On the other hand, looking at (and listening to) Katey is ALWAYS a good thing. So, I guess it's "take the gravy with the lumps" right?

DJ said...

Sorry, I meant "Tim."

Terry said...

If you say the film is through "Tom's mindset and perceptions”, how can you then ask for more insight into Summer?

verninino said...

Up front, I, too, haven't seen this yet. I have yet to see Joseph Gordon-Levitt vehicle I didn't adore, but I'm sooooo bored with the male gaze elevating yon damsel upon yonder pedestal only to nudge her off.

What's wrong with the female gaze? Don't females have three-dimensional perspectives? Don't boys make good ciphers?

I've seen this formula refreshed a hundred thousands times and it's so 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th century.

After all these years why haven't we seen Eternal Sunshine from, say, Clementine's (more interesting) perspective?

Billy D said...

Expanding on my Kennethinthe212 comment (I'd love to hear what you think Nat):

I absolutely hated it. "Jesus's abs?" Awkward and intrusive narrator? Stupid references to "A Perfect Day for Bananafish?" How about the completely pointless chronology hopping? And the only way they could justify having a musical number was as a celebration of a straight white man getting laid? Hooray for heteronormativity!

How about the fact that this movie was marketed as such a strange anomaly (a girl who doesn't believe in love!) when if the gender roles were reversed, it would be every chick flick you've ever seen for the past 10 years? Or how about the fact that Sex and the City played with this idea for 6 years (ten years ago) and with far better acting?

I like JGL, but he basically made the same sullen face for the entire movie. In command of his physicality, yes, and sometimes charming, but his performance overall was shallow and lifeless. He just seemed like he didn't want to be there and knew how weak the material was. I mean, young, white frustrated artist guy trapped in a corporate job when he really wants to be X (architect, baker, painter, etc. etc. etc.). Spare me.

On the other hand, I think the best part of the movie was Zooey's performance. I liked her back-beat rhythms and aloofness--it was a great characterization, even if she was only playing herself. That being said, I don't understand (at all) the whole idea that she is somehow this divine creature that makes magical things happen (the magic hipster?). That one device comes and goes so quickly, I had no idea what to make of it.

It was like the entire movie existed for the one good punchline that, finally, ended the movie.

PS: CAN WE STOP WITH HAND-DRAWN GRAPHICS NOW??? The Juno effect that won't die.

Anonymous said...

After all these years why haven't we seen Eternal Sunshine from, say, Clementine's (more interesting) perspective?

------

But the writer of the screenplay is a guy and so are the writers of 500 days of Summer. Not to say that they can't write from female perspectives, but I do think it's probably easier for them to write from the perspective of their own sex.

Besides most romcom's are from Female perspectives.


As far as why Joseph likes Zooey, um in the real world (at least where I come from), the main motivation for liking someone is attractiveness i.e. sex. They don't have to have anything in common (in your 20s) they just have to look good to you.


~Lily

Katey said...

Stepping in way late in the conversation to express how glad I am that the discussion of Summer's personality/lack thereof has gone so far. Happy not to be alone, even if not all of you agree with me!

Chris Na Taraja said...

Summer may not be a fully developed Character in the sense of a traditional love story, but as they announced in the beginning of the film, "THIS IS NOT A LOVE STORY."

I actually think Summer as a character was well developed given the circumstances. She is the mysterious unavailable lover, who clearly states again and again that she is not looking for anything serious, though she seems to give double messages, and enjoys all the perks of a relationship.

We don't know that much about her, but that's the point. She is well developed because she is a dynamic character, who completely changes through the course of the movie. She may be mysterious, but she has a definite and clear arc.

She may not be "developed" in the traditional way we are used to or want for a love story. But this is actually far more realistic then we would like to admit. Aren't most problems with relationship about the person not developing the way that you would like.

Many people are dating the fantasy of the person rather than the actual person. And unavailable romantic obsessions are thriving in abundance. I know people who have ben together for years, and don't seem to know each other or have any real character development.

This film is exactly the way it feels of to date someone who likes you, and has sex with you, but doesn't want to get serious.

Chris Na Taraja said...

OH, I forgot to say...I love this film. I totally went along for the ride.

BUT, the only thing that annoyed me to no end was the "wise child" younger sister. First of all I didn't buy it. A child that has to talk an adult out of irrational behavior, like the dreaded dish breaking, is not that calm and cool.

There is something creepy about him going to her like a therapist. Making a child in your family a confident and dumping your problems on them is emotional incest!

It would have made more sense if he was somehow responsible for watching her. Then her "wisdom" could have just been smarmy jabs from the tension between them.

Or if they had made that role an old girlfriend.

Other than this, i really loved this film.

Chris Na Taraja said...

Vernino, There are plenty of films that offer up the "feminine gaze". Off the top of my head....

Sense and Sensiblity
Mystic Pizza
Practical Magic
Ya Ya Siterhood
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
Witches of Eastwick
Thelma and Louise
Sex and the City

Though interestingly enough, I can't think of many films where we go into the private world of one obsessed woman. Seems men obsess on their own and women obsess in groups in film.

I was going to say MEET JOE BLACK, but that is really more about Anthony Hopkins point of view.

Oh, there is always GO FISH. : )

NATHANIEL R said...

Billy D while the constant reinforcement of heteronormativity is something that occasionally annoys me about movies, I don't see why it would bother anyone about this particular film. At least this film is questioning the roles people play and the way people view each other.

Why should Summer have fallen for Tom when he has only fallen for some projected version of Summer?

and for once i loved the chronology hopping since, as stated in the podcast by Katey and myself, it informs the way we actually experience relationships (definitely not in a linear fashion... at least not in a linear emotional fashion)

but now that you bring up the "magical hipster" thing... well, you have a point htere. They did drop that ball. Or at least they didn't sufficiently play with that ball that they introduced to the game.

Lily --- agreed. attractiveness and things in common are more than enough for many people to jump into relationships.

Chris Na Taraja said...

I thought this film broke out of the hetronormative, especially since the girl wanted to be casual and the guy was in love.

I really didn't think about how much can be said and discussed about it. I enjoyed when i saw it. but it does make for good discussion.

Definitely see it. It's worth it.

Chris Na Taraja said...

Sorry for the "over blogging" today.

I just must say that I hope Nat and Katey can continue with the pod casts. especially enjoyed the apparating at Hogwarts for the Harry Potter review.

Billy D said...

I really don't understand how this film is at all subverting cliches or heteronormativity. Just because you switch the gender roles (didn't we get over this in the 60s?) doesn't make it novel, it makes it easy and lame.

Yes people, it broke so much with heteronormativity that in the end, the girl has learned her lesson and has completely abandoned her former stance on independence for marriage, and the boy has a sexy date set up.

Srry Nat, haven't watched the podcast yet: I agree about the lack of chronology in relationships and the tendency to compare/contrast good/bad times. Still a little annoying and mostly just an excuse for a punny title.

verninino said...

Chris

I think you're making my point for me with that list -- most of those movies are from my 20th century youth.

I've pretty much given up on contemporary cinema (transforming into a cinematic curmudgeon yearning for the good old days), so was kinda hoping someone would jump in and fill the gap with more recent lady-vision.

On heteronormativity, an interesting Sex in the City theory (read in magazines and overheard in gender spanning parties) that it's actually representative of the gay-male gaze.

jess said...

I want Katey's juicy tits to sit on my face while watching Julie & Julia.

Karen said...

I saw it twice and enjoyed every moment of it! Katey made some good points though, I would have liked to know more about Summer. Great review!

www.reelartsy.com

Danny said...

Great review. I just came across your blog today, so I'll try to read more of your stuff. You can check out my review of the film by clicking on my blog link...I agreed with a lot of the stuff you said.

Matt said...

Regarding the character of Summer, I am in agreement with Chris and Katey and some of the others above, but I would go further. In truth, I despised this character (and it is not the actress herself, whom I have elsewhere liked): she is vapid, self-absorbed, and utterly unconcerned with the feelings of Tom. (A few examples: she casually invites her ex, Tom, to a party celebrating her engagement to a boyfriend of whose existence she hasn't even bothered to inform him! She isn't concerned to inquire about Tom after their break-up--she hadn't heard that he left his job--, nor does she tell him about her wedding. And, of course, she can't bring herself to make even the smallest commitment to him on a personal level.) I have rarely felt so much antipathy toward a character who is presumably meant to be sympathetic. I think this is a big problem for the film--on any interpretation.

Still, upon reflection, it seems to me that this movie is making--or attempting to make--a more subtle point than is acknowledged by most of the reviewers. Remember, "This is not a love story." The characters never state their love for one another. In fact, they never even manage to acknowledge themselves as a couple! I believe that the film's central theme really centers around the fantasies and cliches--the false expectations--that we bring to love rather than love itself. Tom doesn't "fall for Summer" because of their shared interest in the Smiths; rather, he has already fallen for her (that is, the IDEA of her)from the moment he sees her and seizes upon her comment as a way of giving legs to his fantasy. For her part, her vague interest in him begins to develop only when she seems him drunkenly performing kareoke. Moreover, their "relationship" starts to take off not through any sort of personal disclosure, but when they are play-acting being a couple in a store. In this sense, Summer's total lack of development as a character is appropriate; she is a blank screen for Tom's two-dimensional projections. The one moment where she exposes any genuine feeling in relation to Tom is in her mysterious reaction to "The Graduate." Why is she upset? It seems that it is because she identifies with the girl (whatever her name was!) at the end of that movie and her terrible ambivalence at being stuck with Dustin Hoffman's character. She is no longer comfortable in partaking in this farce. Tom , meanwhile, misreads the situation exactly like Dustin Hoffman's character (and recall we are prepared for this misreading at the beginning of 500 Days)--he too thinks he has "gotten the girl," whatever temporary problems there may be--and responds to her distress with the completely inappropriate suggestion of "Pancakes!" Thus her cold-hearted breakup follows immediately afterward. We see there has never been any genuine connection between the two characters, as Summer more or less explicitly tells Tom in the last scene of the movie. It is appropriate, then, that for Tom to get over Summer and to begin to grow up he has to quit his job at the Hallmark-esque place; his rant makes clear that he is finally rejecting the false romantic notions that they have been peddling. He is realizing that he never had a legitimate relationship with Summer in the first place.

This seems to me an interesting and important theme to explore, though the film is in many ways a flawed vehicle. What I find most disturbing, then, are the "professional" reviewers who almost unanimously describe it as a "love story," of one variety or another. I can only conclude that the stereotypical conceptions of love and romance that these reviewers reflect are so deeply embedded that an attempt at parody is viewed simply as a straightforward endorsement.

Am I the only one--other than my wife--who had this reaction to the movie?

Matt

Matt said...

Regarding the character of Summer, I am in agreement with Chris and Katey and some of the others above, but I would go further. In truth, I despised this character (and it is not the actress herself, whom I have elsewhere liked): she is vapid, self-absorbed, and utterly unconcerned with the feelings of Tom. (A few examples: she casually invites her ex, Tom, to a party celebrating her engagement to a boyfriend of whose existence she hasn't even bothered to inform him! She isn't concerned to inquire about Tom after their break-up--she hadn't heard that he left his job--, nor does she tell him about her wedding. And, of course, she can't bring herself to make even the smallest commitment to him on a personal level.) I have rarely felt so much antipathy toward a character who is presumably meant to be sympathetic. I think this is a big problem for the film--on any interpretation.

Still, upon reflection, it seems to me that this movie is making--or attempting to make--a more subtle point than is acknowledged by most of the reviewers. Remember, "This is not a love story." The characters never state their love for one another. In fact, they never even manage to acknowledge themselves as a couple! I believe that the film's central theme really centers around the fantasies and cliches--the false expectations--that we bring to love rather than love itself. Tom doesn't "fall for Summer" because of their shared interest in the Smiths; rather, he has already fallen for her (that is, the IDEA of her)from the moment he sees her and seizes upon her comment as a way of giving legs to his fantasy. For her part, her vague interest in him begins to develop only when she seems him drunkenly performing kareoke. Moreover, their "relationship" starts to take off not through any sort of personal disclosure, but when they are play-acting being a couple in a store. In this sense, Summer's total lack of development as a character is appropriate; she is a blank screen for Tom's two-dimensional projections. The one moment where she exposes any genuine feeling in relation to Tom is in her mysterious reaction to "The Graduate." Why is she upset? It seems that it is because she identifies with the girl (whatever her name was!) at the end of that movie and her terrible ambivalence at being stuck with Dustin Hoffman's character. She is no longer comfortable in partaking in this farce. Tom , meanwhile, misreads the situation exactly like Dustin Hoffman's character (and recall we are prepared for this misreading at the beginning of 500 Days)--he too thinks he has "gotten the girl," whatever temporary problems there may be--and responds to her distress with the completely inappropriate suggestion of "Pancakes!" Thus her cold-hearted breakup follows immediately afterward. We see there has never been any genuine connection between the two characters, as Summer more or less explicitly tells Tom in the last scene of the movie. It is appropriate, then, that for Tom to get over Summer and to begin to grow up he has to quit his job at the Hallmark-esque place; his rant makes clear that he is finally rejecting the false romantic notions that they have been peddling. He is realizing that he never had a legitimate relationship with Summer in the first place.

This seems to me an interesting and important theme to explore, though the film is in many ways a flawed vehicle. What I find most disturbing, then, are the "professional" reviewers who almost unanimously describe it as a "love story," of one variety or another. I can only conclude that the stereotypical conceptions of love and romance that these reviewers reflect are so deeply embedded that an attempt at parody is viewed simply as a straightforward endorsement.

Am I the only one--other than my wife--who had this reaction to the movie?

Matt

Berto Radzio said...

Before I start rambling I would like to state that I fell for this movie too. Its been a long time since a movie about relationships painted a true picture about them. I think that on the subject of Summer (which in my own personal opinion has gone way too long on this thread) Matt possibly has gotten real close saying that she was a selfish bitch in so many words but as with everything in life nothing is black or white. She also cared about him a great deal. I LOVED the fact that she was mysterious because when you're in Tom's position you look for the why ... why, why doesn't she love me. Maybe its because you can't see why she loves Ringo ... maybe its because Tom you're too obsessed with the standard notion of love. Summer loved Tom but she didn't like the fact that he wasn't on the same wave length as her. In the movie it says life is about coincidence; well a friend of mine once told me relationships were about being ready at the same time. Tom showed Summer how great relationships could be so it makes sense that she married the next good guy in her life. Summer wasn't that much of a bad guy you know, she was just looking for what we all look for, happiness, she just was a bit more of a selfish bitch doing it. The film did have a happy ending though cause Tom got over Summer, even if he had to meet Autumn to do so ... thats just my humble opinion anyways

Bellclaire. said...

Ihat it was bizarre that the film was about how Tom had idealised Summer, yet it began with the narrator telling us how great Summer was, and the affect she has on people.
I liked all the bits that were more interesting than most romantic comedies, like the bit when it's Tom's fantasy vs. the reality of what is going on, and the bit when there is a sort of documentary about the characters experiences of love.
I also felt like it was trying very hard to be cute and quirky, and it reminded me of Pushing Daisies with the narrator and the cute girl who dresses will and the sweet guy who adores her.

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