FILM: 500 DAYS OF SUMMER (2009)
DIRECTED BY: MARC WEBB
STARRING: JOSEPH GORDON LEVITT, ZOOEY DESCHANEL
REACTION: ---SLIGHTLY DISAPPOINTING---
I did my homework before watching this film. I read the reviews, including those of Ebert and though I don’t remember if A.O.Scott wrote about it, I do remember reading a piece on the New York Times, and I had been following it up on every Internet source I could lay my hands upon, having an avid interest on the storyline, knowing which I could never prevent an expectation popping into my mind: That I could be waiting to watch a modern interpretation of ‘Annie Hall’.
True, Summer Flynn is no lesser in awesomeness. She’s the kind of girl who can tell you that you’re going to be nothing more than just a friend one night, then kiss you beside the Xerox Machine the next day without prior announcement, tell you that she’s not looking for anything more than a casual relationship, and yet, lie in your bed in the nude when you get back after a minute-long self instruction to be strictly casual in the way you deal with her. She sounds like heaven when she speaks and when she laughs, she has a hairdo that makes you wish you could always be beside her to keep appreciating it, she has the dreamiest pair of eyes you can ever see on a girl, she’s a heck of a singer, she’s charming and she’s fun. She’s someone who can stun everyone, and hence wholly deserves the introduction she gets in the film: She’s an American Amelie Poulain, only that she isn’t as shy.
What could top the list of ‘1000 reasons as to why I wanted to watch this film’ is the anticipation in me that I could be able to relate to the character of Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and that contributed a vast amount to the disappointment, I should say, because there’s nothing really similar except for the fact that he likes a girl blindly for her effect and whatever happens, he does not want to get over her. It’s not a question of determination or confidence, it’s just that he can’t bring himself to do it, because he had fixed in mind that she is the one, and the very act of ‘getting over’ her could only lead to a wreckage of personal judgement, and from the perspective of a male youth, that could be the most self-shattering thing that can happen. And apart from that, there’s nothing that I expected: No insecurity, no yearning for closeness for he’s already getting his share of sex (only that he isn’t satisfied with its frequency), there’s no fascination, no questioning of self if he really could deserve her and even when she’s gone, he just wishes he could be with her, there’s no agony in the absence. He’s just the typical American, post-adolescent youth who always is curious as to whether his relationship is what he thinks he is, or rather what he wants it to be, and though romantic, he just wants the words out of her mouth; he wants to know for sure what she thinks about him.
Summer isn’t elusive. She isn’t a woman who makes you wish you knew what’s behind those serene eyes, and though that’s what Tom thinks of her, it’s a misconception, because she’s just another of those girls who are so damn sure that they’re done with the whole ‘maturing’ process when they’re nothing more than half-baked: Indecisive. A soft-spoken Juno MacGuff, who’s actually shown to contradict herself towards the end and though there’s a transition in Tom Hansen too, there’s a vast difference in the two kinds: While in her case it’s the act of ‘getting mature’, in his it’s evolution, where he just learns out of experience. This isn’t misogyny, though the film begins with an open assault on a certain ‘Jenny Beckman’ or at least I’m unsure if the implication is veiled, because I always had the feeling that Summer was unjustly being celebrated.
Woody Allen certainly isn’t a master creator, but he’s someone who always does what he does in a sufficiently impacting way. He created Annie Hall to be the ‘Woman on Top’, someone who plays Boss, a subject of his fascination, of his awe; an angel who floats through thin air: Summer Flynn is just a bitch who cannot be hated because she’s just too good to be true. While Woody narrated out of the protagonist’s mind how he felt about her all through the film, ‘500 Days of Summer’ has a third person speak about Tom Hansen, and that, I felt, was one of the chief blunders because it was as though Tom Hansen’s mind is walled and all we’re allowed are sneak-peeks, which obviously aren’t enough in this exquisite break-up story. There’s too much of music, too much of sound, too many caricatures and they just stab the seriousness of the plot, making it look like a ‘see and smile’ poster, without room for empathy. Tom’s notion of love isn’t inspired; it’s a mess of what his mates say (not to mention a picture of modern disintegration in form of his little sister) and apart from that, as wisely shown in one of the more ‘innovative’ sequences, he has got totally nothing to say about his idea of ‘love’, and I don’t know. He doesn’t cry, (just comes close to it in what I think is the best scene of the film where he quits his job) there’s no nostalgia that’s stressed upon, no agony when he lives in solitude, and as I said, he just wishes like hell that he could be with her: He doesn’t suffer without.
It’s a learning experience this ‘relationship’, and nothing more. Tom learns from Summer, Summer from Tom. There’s a trade of perspectives, and one can’t be sure if there’s a blend, or as to whether Summer has finally gotten stable with her views or if it’s going to be the same case with her husband as well, only that there’s going to be an additional ring involved the next time. Woody Allen crafted the finale of ‘Annie Hall’ to painful perfection such that you make a transition to his place at the end of it, and you sigh along with him, you wish along with him, and you sing his ballad with hope. Tom Hansen meets Autumn. Day 500 becomes Day 1 and that’s it. So much for sobriety, so much for being woebegone; So much for Summer, where Annie Hall stayed on...