Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Philadelphia Film Festival 2009 - Opening Night

(500) Days of Summer

With his first feature film (500) Days of Summer, Marc Webb quickly launches himself into the New Quirk cannon. Stirring indie rock soundtrack? Check. Brief flirtations with animation? Check. Intertitles as storytelling device? Check. Humor that is both wry and charming? Check. Idiosyncratic characters including a young person way too wise for her age? Check. Show stopping dance sequence from outta left field? Check. Its all here and it makes for yet another essential post-millennial quirky boy meets girl yarn.

We are introduced (via ironic baritone voice over) to our leads and their specific philosophies on love at the outset and thru the next hour and a half the film jumps back and forth through the titular 500 days of their relationship, or rather through Tom’s (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) lengthy obsession over The One called Summer (Zooey Daschanel). He’s shy and insecure, she is strange and guarded but they are both caring people who feel for each other… but not always to the same degree. They meet on her first day working at a greeting card company and finally consummate the relationship a couple weeks later... leading to the aforementioned dance sequence which is a riot. From there they have ups and downs but the story mostly stays true to a traditional 3 act story arc.

I do not use the term Quirk disparagingly but rather as a genre that includes specific tropes and identifiers like any other. Webb would seem destined for this style of film given his 12+ year background in music video direction for the likes of Miley Cyrus, Maroon 5, My Chemical Romance & Matisyahu… and that’s just the Ms! He sets so much of the action in this film to music and the film has a certain rhythm that pulls the viewer into its world. Its IKEA furnished, art musing, Joy Division t-shirt wearing world. Writers Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber give us in their script a film about a relationship that hits so many perfect notes even before Webb gets his hands on them though. From the opening dedication you get the sense that this is a very personal story for them (a girl is named… then disparaged) and it’s these personal connections that make for wonderful characters with all the minor hang-ups that make you fall for them instantly. And when the characters are brought to life from two perfectly cast actors like Joseph Gordon-Levitt (with boyish good looks and a tendency to brood) and Zooey Daschanel (aloof but with eyes to get lost in) it all makes for a sublime viewing experience if you’re into the Quirk. And why wouldn’t you be? Does life not hum along to its own soundtrack? Is Swedish furniture not the shiz? Don’t we all just want to live in Annie Hall?