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(500) Days of Summer

A review by Gary Chew

GARY CHEW/Sacramento

I knew this movie had to have something going for it because the girl in it is named Summer. Often, clever titles of movies and books that don't quite reveal what they're about are well thought out. This film is a good example.

Actually, "(500) Days of Summer" doesn't reveal what it's really about for a while, either, although you go along with it seeing the familiar stuff you'd expect in a summertime romance picture. There's the young man, Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), hopelessly smitten by a fresh, smart, lovely, confident young woman, Summer (Zooey Deschanel). They meet in their workplace where Summer is an assistant to the boss and Tom, who really wants to be an architect, writes messages for greeting cards. No Hallmark moments here, though.

You could call it a bolt that strikes Tom when he first lays eyes on Summer. She likes him, finds him interesting and decides to ask Tom if he'd like to be friends. You know, casual friends. Tom tells his first lie by saying something like, "Yeah, I guess that would be cool."

Zooey Deschanel, whom I see, facially, as a lovely blend of Jean Simmons and Vivian Leigh with a twist of Debra Winger, needs to be in more movies. This woman is goddamned irresistible as Summer. Her Summer is one of supreme confidence minus the arrogance that's usually packaged with that trait. Summer is honest, straightforward, gentle, but liberated and not a prude, since the couple does have sex soon after the relationship begins, even though she's not thinking of Tom as being the father of her kids. In one scene, while they're sitting in a busy park, the pair crazily shouts out the word "penis" over and over. It was really funny for us in the theater. The people in the park are not sure what's going on.

In the park
Tom and Summer celebrate their success in quickly clearing the immediate park area.

As Tom slips more deeply into smittenhood, I guess you could call it, his memory of Summer's upfront declaration for remaining casual seems a fading thing in his memory. And how could a dude like Tom not let that happen? Yes, some par-for-the-course activity in your basic summertime romance movie.

"500" has an out-of-sequence script written by Scott Neustader and Michael H. Weber. Neat though how this film makes the storyline very clear as compared to many movies of this in-vogue genre which sometimes dazes and confuses. Neustader and Weber have come up with a great idea: for each scene (which is all of them) when time jumps ahead or backwards, still art comes on the screen showing the number of what day with Summer Tom is enthralled by or trying to get through. That's from number one through number five-hundred.

New to feature films comes director Marc Webb letting his film splash charisma on us that resembles "The Graduate" (of which a clip is shown) and even "Annie Hall." That's made possible by the script, the brisk, smooth pacing of the film and the lead actors. Wow, Zooey the Irresistible and Gordon-Levitt, who has some facial qualities of the late Heath Ledger, are just mighty damned fine. No way can you not like these characters or how they're portrayed.

There's even Tom's little sister, Rachel (Chloë Moretz, age 12) who blew me away giving her big bro advice on how to navigate his way with Summer. Rachel is slightly athletic, a little butch, very cute and so damned cool and confident it surely must be breaking a law somewhere. There should also be more of Chloë Moretz in future films, I'd think.

So far, this description makes "500" sound not so different. But it is. The music, the direction, the acting, the tone, the dialogue... like when Rachel tells her brother "not to be a pussy"---and the writing, of course, give this movie wings.

"500" has some black and white scenes cleverly inserted that ape foreign films: such as a lovelorn-looking Yves Montand-like guy (Gordon-Levitt) being slapped in the face by a mime and a gaunt, intense couple arguing in a strange Scandinavian dialect a la Ingmar Bergman---each clip with subtitles. Is that Woody Allen at the door?

Webb's de-emphasis of sex play and merely alluding to it make the relationship seem real, giving "500" a mature, non-pandering boost without making the movie---you know---"all right for those who might be offended or embarrassed." It a grown-up picture without lots of coarse language and no exposed skin for zing.

Finally, here in my confessional I call review-writing, I must say: what "(500) Days of Summer" did most for me was reinstituting the feeling of being 25 years-old again---in the summer, when all of the feelings being emoted up there on the big screen were, it seems now, experienced.

Walking out of the theater, I asked two women who'd just seen the film if they enjoyed it. With slow-to-come-to-their-face smiles, each said, "Yes." Both were opening themselves to a total stranger to affirm the simple act of remembering that which was, is and shall likely be very special for all of us---for all of our lives.

Isn't that what a good movie is for?

"(500) Days of Summer" official site.

Opens Friday, 8/7 at the Tulsa Cinemark and the AMC Southroads 20.

Check Yahoo Movies-Tulsa for theaters and times.

Gary Chew can be reached at garychew@comcast.net.

Copyright © 2009, Gary Chew. All rights reserved.

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