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(500) Days of Summer(2009)
Tom believes, even in this cynical modern world, in the notion of a transforming, cosmically destined, lightning-strikes-once kind of love. Summer doesn't. Not at all. But that doesn't stop Tom from going after her, again and again, like a modern Don Quijote, with all his might and courage. Suddenly, Tom is in love not just with a lovely, witty, intelligent woman -- but with the very idea of Summer, the very idea of a love that still has the power to shock the heart and stop the world. The fuse is lit on Day 1 when Tom, a would-be architect turned sappy greeting card writer, encounters Summer, his boss's breezy, beautiful new secretary, fresh off the plane from Michigan. Though seemingly out of his league, Tom soon discovers he shares plenty in common with Summer. By Day 31, things are moving ahead, albeit "casually." By Day 32, Tom is irreparably smitten, living in a giddy, fantastical world of Summer on his mind. By Day 185, things are in serious limbo -- but not without hope. And as the story winds backwards and forwards through Tom and Summer's on-again, off-again, sometimes blissful, often tumultuous dalliance -- all of which adds up to a kaleidoscopic portrait of why, and how, we still struggle so laughably, cringingly hard to make sense of love and to hopefully make it real.
For more about (500) Days of Summer and the (500) Days of Summer Blu-ray release, see (500) Days of Summer Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on December 23, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel, Geoffrey Arend, Chloë Grace Moretz, Matthew Gray Gubler, Clark Gregg
Narrator: Richard McGonagle
Director: Marc Webb
» See full cast & crew
(500) Days of Summer Blu-ray Review
"You should know up front, this is not a love story."
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, December 23, 2009
At least, so claims (500) Days of Summer's narrator, who is actually throwing us a big old red herring. What he really means is that this is not a love story in the traditional rom-com vein, where love surmounts all manner of wacky conflicts and misunderstandings and where the complexities of real-life relationships are buried under a heap of sugary sentiments. No, (500) Days of Summer is a love story, it just isn't a tidy one, and it certainly doesn't end with a freeze frame of a happy couple kissing on a beach or dancing down the aisle. Instead, it documents love's incessant uncertainties, its obsessions and longings, its birth labors and death pangs. Lest this sound too serious, it's also a frequently hilarious comedy. But like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind—the contemporary film closest in tone to (500) Days—the humor here is in the service of the wrenching drama at hand, and not the other way around. The boy-meets- girl, boy-loses-girl story is jubilant but heartrending, and should resonate with anyone who has ever pined through the rise and fall of their own holy romance empire. And while we've all seen these kinds of films before, (500) Days of Summer differentiates itself with an effectively non- linear narrative, making the film the chronicle of a breakup foretold, a book of unrequited love where the last page is read first.
Weaned on a steady diet of mopey Brit-rock and influenced by an entirely incorrect reading of The Graduate, greeting card writer and architect-aspirant Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon- Levitt) believes he can never be truly happy until he meets the one. And suddenly it happens. Riding together in an elevator, office new girl Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel), whom Tom has noticed from afar, overhears the output of Tom's oversized headphones and confesses her undying love for The Smiths. That's the spark. Soon, they're serenading each other at a karaoke bar, kissing in the copy room, and playing house at Ikea. ("I don't know how to tell you this," Tom says, "but…there's a Chinese family in our bathroom.") Summer is seemingly perfect, beautiful and intelligent, coquettish and independent. The only trouble is, after witnessing her parents' divorce as a child, she doesn't want or even believe in commitment. When Tom asks her what will happen when she falls in love, she says, "You believe in that?" (To which Tom replies, "It's love, not Santa Claus.") Despite their philosophical differences, the two manage to maintain a caring, fun-filled relationship that defies easy categorization. For a time, anyway. The strain of not being able to define exactly what they are eventually weighs heavily on Tom, and when he tells her, "I need to know you're not gonna wake up one morning and feel differently," she responds, with tender pity, "I can't give you that. Nobody can." Their split is as epically awful as it is inevitable, and the film lingers in that post-breakup phase when the only thing worth leaving the apartment for is to pick up more Twinkies and Jack Daniel's.
None of this is told sequentially, as the film skips forward and backward through the (500) Days of Summer and Tom's relationship, contrasting the good times against the bad. When we see Summer turn disinterestedly away as Tom makes a joke at Ikea during Day 128, it's made all the more painful when we jump back to Day 34 and watch as the same joke sends them racing to a showroom bedroom, where they laughingly collapse into one another's arms. The film latches on to how we sometimes assume that the nostalgia of inside jokes and tender little moments will remain immutably poignant, when, in reality, the shine of these memories often tends to oxidize with age. Likewise, (500) Days of Summer nods gravely toward that other relationship killer: impossibly high hopes. In one brilliantly constructed split-screen sequence, Tom's expectations for a party at Summer's apartment are shown on the left, while the sad reality of the situation plays out on the right. On one side of the screen he's winning back his ex, and on the other he's drinking a beer alone, noticing the glimmering rock on Summer's ring finger, and realizing exactly what's being celebrated. All of this narrative and visual trickery could have easily come off as gimmicky or overwrought, but the film earns the gall with which it employs its stylistic flourishes by having a story that's grounded in emotional honesty.
That's not to say that (500) Days of Summer doesn't occasionally suffer from indie rom- com-itis, otherwise known as an inflamed sense of quirky cuteness. We could certainly do without Tom getting relationship advice from his precocious preteen sister (Chloë Moretz), and the wink- wink optimism of the ending—which reinstates Tom's belief in destiny—is perhaps too smarmy for its own good. At the same time, the film has more than a few gleefully—and genuinely—sweet moments. It's impossible to suppress a smile when Tom greets the morning after his first night with Summer; his reflection in a car window is transformed into a winking Han Solo, passing pedestrians shoot him smiles and high-fives, and the world momentarily turns into a joyous musical set to Hall & Oates' "You Make My Dreams," complete with a marching band and an animated bluebird on Tom's shoulder. It's probably the most joyous and unexpected thing I've seen in a film all year, and it completely sells Tom's heightened happiness. Of course, a romantic comedy's success is almost entirely contingent on the believability of its leads as lovers, and I can't think of any better couple to play Tom and Summer than Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel. Both actors are fashionable and charming, and for as modern as they appear, there's something about them that feels like a remnant from another time. Gordon-Levitt has a kind of Old Hollywood appeal; he's got the graceful presence of Fred Astaire and the earnestness of a leading man from the 1950s. And Zooey Deschanel seems to have jumped straight out of a Godard film, with the innate talent and beauty of a 1960s ingénue. Together, they give (500) Days of Summer more class than most indie rom-coms could ever muster, and if the film isn't exactly timeless, it does feel far more permanent than previous Sundance-y films de jour like Juno and Little Miss Sunshine.
(500) Days of Summer Blu-ray, Video Quality
(500) Days of Summer shines on Blu-ray with a 2.40:1 framed, 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer that's impossible not to fall for. Just as in a relationship, it is sometimes easy to find visual shortcomings in the transfer of a film that you love, so you may notice that (500) Days isn't exactly the sharpest contemporary film available on Blu-ray. That's not to say it's dull, because fine detail is definitely more than adequate—see the tight focus on Zooey's eyelashes, for example— but the overall look is a little soft at times. (Though, I'd have to say flatteringly so, and in a way that totally suits the feeling of the story.) That said, this is a gorgeously shot film, with a very deliberate color palette that's almost devoid of primaries, but presents instead a kind of creamy spectrum that reminds me of an old Polaroid. With few exceptions, the image is comprised of neutral tones like off-whites, beiges, and grays, and whenever Summer is present, the film allows a few bold splashes of blue to match her big, beautiful eyes. Black levels are nice and tight while preserving plenty of detail in the shadows—see Tom's black hoodie—and the well-tuned contrast gives the image a pleasing sense of depth and presence. Fine grain is readily apparent, though minimal, and even the windowboxed sections shot on 16mm look great. Finally, cuddled up on a 50GB dual-layer disc, there are no compression issues or other anomalies to ruin the mood.
(500) Days of Summer Blu-ray, Audio Quality
No one expects a romantic comedy to have brain-melting dynamics, whiz-bang-pow cross-channel sound effects, or foundation-shaking bouts of LFE rumble. Usually the best you can hope for is expertly prioritized dialogue, a natural and convincing soundstage, and music that's tight, detailed, and carries a little bit of heft in the low end. And that's exactly what (500) Days of Summer's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track delivers. For the most part, this is a front- heavy presentation, with balanced, easily intelligible voices carrying on life-altering conversations in the center channel. The surround speakers, however, do get some occasional action in the form of city street and office building ambience, along with a few discrete effects like Tom's sister's bicycle whizzing from left to right. The sound design isn't particularly immersive or engaging, but it is perfectly acceptable for this kind of film, and it's aided by a terrific selection of music. Both the score and the ample pop songs sound excellent, with a clean, articulate, but not overly bright presence, and solid bass.
(500) Days of Summer Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Commentary by Director Marc Webb, Writer Michael Weber, Writer Scott Neustadter, and Actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt
This is one of the most light-hearted, entertaining, and insightful tracks I've heard in a while. The three participants keep it loose, and there's no lack of enthusiasm about the project. If you like commentaries and you liked (500) Days of Summer, this is a must-listen.
Last Days of Summer: Deleted and Extended Scenes (1080i, 14:42 total)
Usually I'm pretty ambivalent about deleted scenes, but I was quite taken with the nine included here, especially the one that shows Tom's worst morning ever. Available with optional commentary by Director Marc webb, writer Michael Weber, writer Scott Neustadter, and actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
Not a Love Story: Making (500) Days of Summer (1080i, 29:21)
This Blu-ray exclusive documentary is a comprehensive look at the film's production, with a special emphasis on the thought that went into the cinematography, costuming, and set design. Features interviews with director Marc Webb, writers Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, and many others. Of course, it ends with each participant saying of few words about their thoughts on love.
Summer at Sundance (1080i, 13:46)
Here we go to Park City, Utah and follow director Marc Webb around Robert Redford's Sundance Film Festival and eventually to (500) Days of Summer's premiere, where it received a standing ovation.
Audition Tapes (SD)
Includes brief tapes for Geoffrey Arend (4:23) and Matthew Gray Gubler (2:38), with optional commentary by director Marc Webb.
Summer Storyboards (SD)
Two storyboard sequences are included here, Summer Effect (1:36) and Reality/Expectations (1:55). By pressing the "angle" button on your remote you can switch between storyboards and a storyboard to film comparison. Available with optional commentary by director Marc Webb.
Bank Dance Directed by Marc Webb (SD, 4:18)
A music video for one of Zooey D's songs, shot inside one of the banks that was robbed in Set It Off.
Mean's Cinemash: "Sid and Nancy / (500) Days of Summer" (1080p, 3:28)
This is pretty funny. Playing off the Sid and Nancy reference in the film, director Marc Webb put together this little mash-up, which features Joseph Gordon-Levitt playing Nancy, in a bad wig, and Zooey Deschanel as Sid, with a not-so-bad Cockney accent.
Music Video: Sweet Disposition by The Temper Trap (SD, 4:01)
I don't care if the song is featured in the film, this is a terrible music video, which apes 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Fountain, and, no kidding, features a girl in a gold jump suit rollerblading through outer space.
Conversations with Zooey and Joseph (SD, 12:26 total)
In these brief conversational promos, Zooey and Joseph talk about acting versus reality, the creative process, their favorite spots in L.A., Los Angeles in general, karaoke, and music.
Filmmaking Specials (SD)
First up are four brief Behind (500) Days of Summer featurettes, in which director Marc Webb talks about casting Zooey and Joe (2:07), the "Summer Effect" (1:35), the French film references (00:58), and the intentional color palette (1:11). Next, we have two segments of Fox Movie Channel Presents, In Character with Zooey Deschanel (2:38) and In Character with Joseph Gordon-Levitt (3:08).
Includes high definition trailers for Amelia, Fame, and Adam.
(500) Days of Summer Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
It's truly rare for a romantic comedy to side skirt cliché, avoid sentimentality, and deliver a genuinely affecting story, but (500) Days of Summer pulls it off with convincing performances and style to spare. This is certainly one of the best romantic films of the year— precisely because it's about love's messy aftermath—and, speaking from personal experience, it's one of those few rom-coms that will equally entertain husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends. Just don't watch it with someone you're on the verge of breaking up with, because it could possibly tip you over the edge. But maybe that's a good thing. Either way, (500) Days of Summer comes highly recommended.
(500) Days of Summer: Other Editions
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(500) Days of Summer Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Today on Blu-ray - December 22nd - December 22, 2009
Typically, the week before Christmas lacks big name releases due to studios admission that the majority of holiday shopping has already taken place, and there is no room for last minute purchases like a new Blu-ray release. In fact, the week after Christmas is ...
• Fox Reveals (500) Days of Summer Blu-ray - October 7, 2009
In an early announcement to retailers, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has announced that they will bring '(500) Days of Summer' to Blu-ray on December 22nd, day-and-date with the DVD release. Video will be presented in 1080p AVC accompanied by a 5.1 DTS-HD ...
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