Saturday, January 9, 2010

(500) Days of Summer (2009)

Directed by Marc Webb. If you don't already dislike "(500) Days of Summer" by it's final 30 seconds, I'm not sure how that couldn't convince you. The last line of dialog
and the final shot are so painfully maudlin I could hardly stand it. The movie is basically a remake of "Annie Hall" for the kind of young people who wear messenger bags and desperately want you to know what bands they listen to.

The good part of this movie is Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who stars as Tom. I liked this guy in 2007's "The Lookout" and I've been wanting for a long time to see a 2005 thing called "Brick" that he's supposedly very good in. Gordon-Levitt is very convincing but is not enough to save this disconnect between direction and story.

Both "(500) Days" and "Annie Hall" detail, from the male perspective, the rite of passage of the doomed relationship. Marc Webb's major innovation on Woody Allen's 1977 Oscar winner is to tell the story out of order. Other than that it's the same old mish-mash of references to this film style and that film style. The difference of course is that Woody Allen was funny while Marc Webb is decades late and mostly unclever.

There are moments that are just dumb, like when Webb imitates scenes from Ingmar Bergman movies that feel not so much funny as self-congratulatory. Then there are moments where narrative devices are used -- documentary style interviews and voice-over narration -- where we can't tell it's used as part of the multi-style motif or as a truly slipshod moment of directing.

Yes, I liked the part where the screen split during an evening out and we saw Tom's expectations vs. reality.

But the big problem here is that all of these little tricks: the genre references, the music tricks, the dance number and animation -- there's no real reason for it grounded in these characters. It's not as if Tom is a screenwriter or a cinemaphile who has a problem with reality. The guy writes greeting cards. Yes, that stuff makes the movie entertaining, but when there's no connection between the little tricks and the story, it's just showing off.

And by the way, Hall and Oates' "You Make My Dreams Come True" is on its way to being the new "Walking on Sunshine" as a song that shouldn't be in movies anymore. Enough.

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