Movie Review: 500 Days of Summer

Artists explore love and romance constantly. If I had to rank the accuracy and helpfulness of discussions of love by medium, from worst to least-worst, it would be: Hollywood movies, pop music, non-fiction writing, fiction writing.

The movie 500 Days of Summer is an excellent exception to this ranking. It’s the story of boy meets girl in Los Angeles. But as Morgan Freeman’s narrator voice warns, “It’s not a love story.” In this film, it’s the guy who falls for the woman, and then has his heart broken. She’s taken by him but ends it because it doesn’t feel right. After things go south, he can’t quite get over her. He tries to win her back. It doesn’t go according to plan. But he does find a light at the end of a different tunnel.

The movie jumbles the chronology — it starts near the end, then jumps to the beginning. This is an apt approach for a love story. When you reflect on failed romance, you often dwell on the low points and either forget the high points altogether or confuse when they happened.

The side plots are fun and interesting. At one point a split screen shows “Expectations” and “Reality” and proceeds through the scene showing the differences. After the guy and girl sleep together for the first time, the guy walks to work with a spring in his step, as you’d expect — and a spontaneous Bollywood dance sequence you don’t expect.

Here’s Roger Ebert’s thumbs up review of the film with these three winning sentence: “One thing men love is to instruct women. If a woman wants to enchant a man, she is wise to play his pupil. Men fall for this.”

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The Hurt Locker is another good movie out on DVD. I thought about it for a couple days afterwards, which is always a good sign. As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan drag on, one can easily forget what’s happening there. This movie brought me into that world for a couple hours. A memorable scene took place not in the war zone. The main character, who de-activated bombs in populated areas in Iraq, is in a supermarket back in the U.S. after completing his tour of duty. His wife asks him to pick up cereal so he wanders over to the cereal aisle. The dull florescent lights shine down on the abandoned aisle. Supermarket music plays in the background. He looks at the endless variations of cereal. Hundreds of different types. You could feel the triviality of the moment reverberate in his head. Going from saving lives on a daily basis to electing which type of Cheerios to purchase. He re-enlists and goes back to Iraq.

Other movies watched and recommended: Capote and Away We Go.

Finally, if you haven’t already read the excellent Esquire profile of Roger Ebert, you should.

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On a completely unrelated note, I’m going to Brazil next month for 1.5 weeks, mostly Rio, if you live there or have tips, drop me a line.

3 Responses to Movie Review: 500 Days of Summer

  1. I agree, the supermarket scene in “Hurt Locker” was really well done. Reminds me of something I read recently about UAV pilots stationed just outside Vegas who spend their days hunting insurgents only to drive home that same night for their kids soccer practice.

    The UAV guys get a lot of crap for not “being in the fight,” but at least when you’re deployed you can put on your “deployed hat” for 6 months or a year – those guys have to change back and forth on a daily basis and apparently it takes its toll.

  2. I’m surprised your short review of “The Hurt Locker” didn’t reference the central theme: the question of whether the main character was addicted to war. With regard to the supermarket scene, most other types of addicts have trouble coping with the insignificance of commonplace chores and decisions.

    “The Hurt Locker” is fine if can overlook the fact that the protagonist is a selfish prick. For me that’s not the case and the reason “Into the Wild” sucked, too.

  3. Jil Plummer says:

    I have not seen “Hurt Locker” but I can understand how a person must feel coming back to ordinary life after the tension and drama of a war zone. Remember Kipling’s poem, I forget the title but there are the lines, “Me that ‘ave been wot I’ve been, me that ‘ave seen wot I’ve seen.” when the returned soldier is told to be careful taking a letter to the post.That has stayed with me since I read it as a kid.
    In varying degrees the same feeling replicates itself after any feat of endurance or great difficulty. Ordinary life seems petty by comparison.
    I think “Hurt Locker” although good must be heart wrenching to watch?

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