Saturday, 2 January 2010

Another (500) Days of Summer

I know that there is already a post on this one, but I wanted to write something more substantial than just a comment because this movie prompted an unusual response in me.

It’s always unfortunate when you go into a movie with your expectations high, but a combination of the responses I heard from others and my own impression from the trailer made me think that this would be my favourite movie of the year. Bad start. The high expectations meant that I was disappointed in spite of the movie being pretty good. I liked the general idea of the story; I liked the acting; I liked the tone and the narration and even the jumping around chronologically (though I wonder if that could have been improved).

What I didn’t like was the apparent ‘message’ of the movie. Here’s the way I have articulated this a couple of times to those I watched with: “I don’t like how it made me sympathetic with Tom while giving the impression that Summer was supposedly more ‘in the right.’” In my books, you can say that you’re not looking for a serious relationship all you want, but if you’re sleeping with someone and giving lots of other ‘I’m pretty in love with you’ kinds of non-verbals while thinking that somehow you can ‘just be friends’ then you are misusing someone and probably misusing yourself.

There are a variety of ways in which (in my opinion) this could have been improved in the movie. They could have given a few more hints (there were some admittedly) that Tom’s perspective on how much she was into him was misperceived through the lens of his desire. Maybe Zooey Deschanel is just too good at playing someone falling in love. Or there could have been a little more development of her inability to commit to Tom being based on either her emotional baggage from her parents’ failed relationship or some particular aspect of Tom’s character that made commitment scary for her (or preferably a combination of both). Instead they make it seem like she was somehow more secure and mature about how she was in that relationship. Any changes along these lines would have fit with the ideas the film pointed towards but did not effectively communicate.

On the other hand, simply the fact that the movie stimulated this much thought makes it worthy of kudos. It does a great job of drawing you into the emotional world of Tom (and not the other characters by the way – I’ll say a word about them later) and then makes you work through the position he finds himself in. In this sense the film is very much from a first person perspective.There is lots of good food for thought, and certainly one can't always say this about a romantic comedy.

The other characters are actually kind of flat. Summer is an interesting and attractive person but not at all one who draws in your sympathies. The ending of her story is not sold at all well, and I don’t feel like she ends up in a good space mental/relational health-wise. Tom’s sister is also interesting but way too over-caricatured and not believable (but excusable in a comedy). And finally, Tom’s friend, McKenzie – do we really need another clich├ęd, sexually immature, over-drinking friend. Is this where our society is at these days? Does every nice guy in his late twenties still have a sexually immature, over-drinking friend? Well, maybe they do, but I’m just getting tired of these characters. Excuse my rant.

So the criticisms above notwithstanding, this was a good movie, though I’m a little surprised at how positive the critics have been. I’d keep it at ***1/2 stars myself.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with your rating. I Could have felt better about it if they sold Summer's side of the relationship more and her happy ending. It seemed sort of one dimentional or something.