Sundance 2009 Review: Marc Webb's 500 Days of Summer
by Alex Billington
January 18, 2009
There was a magical feeling in the air when I sat down in Eccles to watch the world premiere of Marc Webb's 500 Days of Summer. As the lights dimmed, a chill went down my spine, as I somehow knew I was about to watch a phenomenal film. There are always outstanding indie gems like this at Sundance every year, but it's even more amazing to set high expectations have them still be surpassed. 500 Days of Summer did just that - it took everything I was hoping this would be and gave me so much more. Unless something else comes along by surprise in the next few days, this will easily be my favorite film of the festival.
500 Days of Summer is not a love story. If anything, it's more than just a love story, it's a look at life and love told in an offbeat way that remarkably we can all inherently understand. This is a story about a woman named Summer (Zooey Deschanel) who doesn't believe true love exists, and the young man named Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who falls for her. Webb fragments the 500 days that Tom and Summer spend together by showing us pieces at a time, out of order, and using title cards to identify which day (out of 500) it is we're seeing. It starts at end, jumps to the beginning, then shows us nearly every moment in between.
I thought I had seen everything in the way of relationship comedies, but obviously not. It's an immense challenge to be able to make a new indie comedy that succeeds past the numerous classics in the genre, but the script from newcomers Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber and the direction from Marc Webb did push those boundaries. It's Webb's wonderful shooting style and his use of the greatest music selection I've heard in the last 12 months that gives 500 Days of Summer the edge it needed to stand out. There are so many wonderful moments in 500 Days of Summer, that it is truly impossible not to fall in love with it.
There was a moment where the music switched to a score instead of a pop rock track and the laughter had settled. And I sat there, awe-struck, realizing that it had flawlessly floated across the line between being a light-hearted comedy and a sensible and emotional romance without as much as a hiccup. As the scene continued and just as tears began to well up in my eyes, it picked back up with some humor. It's that impeccable mesh of laugh-out-loud comedy and utterly realistic storytelling that made this the film that I've come to love the most at Sundance. 500 Days of Summer is a wonderful, must see, authentic indie gem.
Sundance Rating: 10 out of 10