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(500) Days of Summer (2009)

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 12/22/2009

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2
Video: 1/2
Audio: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 12/29/2009

In my opinion, independent movies have changed over the years. In the late 70s and early 80s, I was a huge fan of independent movies. Back then, to me, the term "independent film" referred to a horror movie which was made outside of the studio system and played by its own rules. Sometimes these movies were distributed by a major studio, but most of the time, they simply found their way into theaters and managed small runs. It was these films which shaped the kind of unique movies that I love. Today, "independent film" typically refers to some dour, "slice of life" dramedy which is supposed to show the artsy side of life. These movies are usually boring and indistinguishable. Thus (obviously), I rarely look forward to these movies. However, (500) Days of Summer looks to buck that trend.

(500) Days of Summer examines the relationship between Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordo-Levitt) and Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel). They meet at the greeting-card company where Tom is a writer and Summer is a receptionist. At first, Tom assumes that Summer is out of his league. However, they chat on the elevator and soon realize that they have a lot in common. Soon, they are hanging out, going to dinner, the movies, etc. But, when they talk about relationships, Summer reveals that she has no interest in anything serious. Despite this, Tom continues to work towards making their bond more concrete and real. Can he convince Summer that they can be more than friends?

The title (500) Days of Summer refers to the duration of Tom and Summer's relationship. The conceit of the film is that it doesn't always follow a linear timeline. The movie jumps around focusing on particular days in their time together -- these days are denoted by an on-screen number. The story (sort of) starts at the beginning, and then leaps ahead on random occasions to give us an idea of where the relationship will lead. This is like a form of insistent foreshadowing. There aren't hints of the future -- we know (for the most part) where the relationship is going to go. This makes the movie a puzzle in which we now begin to look for the clues which foretell a future which we've already seen. Get it?

Aside from the interesting way in which the story is told, (500) Days of Summer also gets points for its honest portrayals of relationships. It's odd to see a movie which contains some scenes of fantastic whimsy (and even more in the deleted scenes) also give such a brutal portrait of a relationship. Without ever getting overly serious or dramatic (no small feat), (500) Days of Summer is able to paint a realistic portrait of the high and lows of a relationship and the devastating heartache which can go along with this. While all viewers won't be able to relate to every moment of the film (I hope), I get the feeling that most everyone has been in a relationship where they had that moment of realization that they loved their partner more than their partner loved them. This movie doesn't beat you over the head with its portrayal of love. Quite the contrary, what seems like a very airy movie slowly turns into a powerful tale of the intoxication of romance.

Has (500) Days of Summer changed my mind about modern "indie" films? Not hardly. But, it is nice to see such a solid, satisfying movie, no matter what label is slapped on it. Music video director Marc Webb makes a very impressive debut here, and Deschanel and Gordon-Levitt are very good in their roles. The film also features just the right amount of quirky background players. Do yourself a favor and spend one night with (500) Days of Summer.

(500) Days of Summer needs a little sister to lean on on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 35 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing only a hint of grain at times and no defects from the source material. The colors look very good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The image has a very nice level of detail (textures are visible on objects) and the depth is notably good, with the image having a quasi 3-D look. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.2 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are good and nicely detailed. These play well in crowd scenes. Likewise, the surround effects are noticeable in crowd and street scenes and show accurate placement when compared to on-screen action. I didn't note any truly overt subwoofer effects.

The (500) Days of Summer Blu-ray has a selection of extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Marc Webb, Writer Michael Weber, Writer Scott Nedustadter, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The Disc contains nine DELETED AND EXTENDED SCENES which run about 15 minutes and can be viewed with commentary from Webb, Weber, Neustadter and Gordon-Levitt. There's actually only a few moments of new material, and none of it adds to the story, but we do get to see some additional visual flair from Webb. "Not a Love Story: Making (500) Days of Summer" (30 minutes) is a fairly in-depth featurette which starts with the writers and explores the creation of the film. The piece contains interviews with the cast and filmmakers, who talk about their involvement in the film. There is a nice look at Webb's pitch presentation and some on-set footage. "Summer at Sundance" (14 minutes) follows those involved with the film as they prepare for a screening at the prestigious film festival. This play as a video diary, as we get in-camear comments and some Q&A. The "Audition Tapes" from actors Matthew Gray Gubler and Geoffrey Arend are offered here and can be viewed with commentary from Webb. "Summer Storyboards" shows how two key scenes were planned. "Bank Dance Directed by Marc Webb" (4 minutes) is an odd little music video with Gordon-Levitt and Deschanel from her musical project She & Him. "Mean's Cinemash: Sid and Nancy/(500) Days of Summer" (3 minutes) oddly combines the two films as Gordon-Levitt and Deschanel take on differnt roles. We get the MUSIC VIDEO fro the song "Sweet Disposition" by The Temper Trap. "Conversations with Zooey and Joseph" (12 minutes) is a series of five brief chats between the two as they discuss a variety of topics. "Filmmaking Specials" contains four interviews with Webb about the making of the film, plus short interviews with Deschanel and Gordon-Levitt.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long