Thursday, July 09, 2009

Summer Rollercoaster:: 500 Days of Summer

I wasn't expecting to like Mark Webb's {500} Days of Summer and that's usually a good thing for a movie. Reigning in expectations with respect to reality, a theme of the film, typically helps my moviewatching experience. The screening was at the local cineplex {Varsity in Toronto} and was fairly full. I think the audience liked the film more than I did and I think it has enough hooks to bring in enough of the hipster target. This is prepackaged indie, right down to the product placements. Tom drives a BMW, his workplace use Dell Computers, and Summer is an Ikea shopper. There are momentary flashes of comedic brilliance and humanity, but the film delights in taking us on a journey, assuming that's reward enough. There are plenty of "indie" touchstones and a musical number set to Hall & Oates' "You Make My Dreams" that actually works.

I think what I wanted was what the film could never be. Ah, reality v. expectations. This was formula indie::
  1. Hip cultural references...√+ Summer quoted Belle & Sebastian lyrics in her HS yearbook
  2. Indie music songs on the soundtrack...√+ See for yourself...on Stereogum
  3. Unconventional storyline, often with bittersweet aspects...√ Pretty conventional but bittersweet.
  4. Witty dialogue...√ Here and there.
  5. Cleverness...√ There and here.
The film is perfect indie simulacrum. It looks indie, but is steeped in a mainstream sensibility that go hand-in-glove with the film's box-office ambitions. There's nothing terribly profound in the story, not that there has to be, but what was needed was a bit more to emotionally invest us in it. Tom {Joseph Gordon-Levitt} is burdened with supplying us with the bulk of the emotions, but if you're wincing uncomfortably at seeing him struggle at understanding why things went down the way they did, you're out in the cold. The thing is, I don't think audiences will be wincing. I think many will relate to Tom's struggles and because it evokes a sad, youthful sensitivity of a hapless hopeless romantic, the character seems sweet. We're primed not to hate Summer {Zooey Deschanel}, but nothing really gets addressed of her choices or actions because we don't really get to know her, which is part of the point.

I think people will look past my criticisms and will like this movie. Yeah, it's feel-good, um, summer fodder, where cliché and formula should be built into expectations. If you fancy yourself a hipster, duh, see it. Even if you hate it, you'll have to have seen it.

Before the screening, a music video was shown for Regina Spektor's "Laughing With." Regina, who is on the soundtrack, was part of the promo giveaway. The video, directed by Adria Petty, is a bit heavy with art school surrealism, which is her thing::

Addendum:: I almost forgot how The Architecture of Happiness by Alain de Botton was written into the script. I've blogged about Alain's Twitter response to a negative review on ThickCulture and here's a link to an interview he granted on the subject. In any case, I wonder is the "product placement" will boost his sales a bit.

Twitterversion:: #500DaysofSummer =prepackagd indie formula film,summer feel-good candy.That said, go in w/rt expectations&you'll be fine.

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