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500 Days of Summer

Things have been a bit heavy around here lately. But it's Friday. So let's talk about love. Not a love story. But a story that's -- sigh -- about love. Like a lot of urban twentysomethings who listen to She & Him and venerate "Brick", I've seen "500 Days of Summer." And I liked it. I'd even recommend seeing it. But the movie is marred by a crucial bit of cowardice toward the end. This'll require some spoilers, so it goes below the fold:

The movie is much of what you've heard it is: It's stylish and surefooted and self-aware and quirky. But it is not what it promises to be: an attack on the conventions of romantic comedies.

The major conceit of "500 Days of Summer," of course, is that Tom and Summer break up. Like, whoa. There's no "happy ever after" here. This is, like, real life man. Sort of. Toward the end of the film, though, the story flinches. It can't quite bring itself to say that "happily ever after" isn't how it works. So it says, instead, that it's not how it worked this time. Summer leaves Tom, as I remember, a bit before the 300th day. By the 480th day, she's married to someone else. That means she met someone, fell in love, accepted his proposal, planned a wedding and carried it out, in a bit less than six months.

Say what you will, but the girl is efficient.

Summer's quickie marriage is squeezed into the film to avert a depressing conclusion. It allows her to tell Tom, who she runs into on a park bench, that he wasn't wrong to believe in love and fate and kismet and happily ever after. In fact, it was Summer who was wrong to question those things. "You were right," she tells Tom. "Just not with me."

It's a bit of a whiff for a movie that's supposed to be about the inadequacies of romantic comedies to end in a ringing affirmation of their central thesis. The movie presents itself as the antidote to your standard romantic comedy genre, but in fact, it's actually trying to be a prequel. That doesn't mean it's not a fun few hours in the cinema, and hey, I love romantic comedies and like the idea of "happily ever after." But given that this film's whole advertising campaign is based around patting itself on the back for resisting the easy fantasy of a sunset ending, it's a bit of a bummer to sit through it only to learn that the sunset happened just off-screen.

By Ezra Klein  |  July 24, 2009; 2:05 PM ET
Categories:  Movies  
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"Say what you will, but the girl is efficient."

Well, she was known as "Anal Girl" in college, apparently.

Posted by: smhjr1 | July 24, 2009 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, that's pretty much the same message as "She's Just Not That Into You".

Posted by: zaphrm | July 24, 2009 2:35 PM | Report abuse

I like both Gordon-Levitt and Deschanel so I'm glad that this film is getting good reviews. But I won't have a chance to get to see it in the theaters so I'll just watch my copy of Annie Hall again, which, I'm pretty sure is the archetype for the anti-rom/com.

Posted by: eRobin1 | July 24, 2009 5:04 PM | Report abuse

you glossed over the most annoying part! i was okay with summer getting married, and i was way okay with her not marrying tom (can you say self-absorbed?).

but the very, very end was just painful. "i'm autumn"! every single person in the theater groaned. it hurt.

Posted by: ewstephe | July 24, 2009 5:10 PM | Report abuse

I love your blog and the updates on health policy with the fun mixed in.

Please consider some constructive criticism: Use the warning "SPOILER ALERT" if discussing key plot points/reveals for movies.

I just read the end of this movie in this post. Before seeing it. Basically, I now know how it will end, so my experience is lessened if I choose to see it.

Movie-comment websites usually give ample warning when giving away major plot points (that is, those not given away in trailers, a whole different discussion).

Posted by: cnaus19 | July 24, 2009 7:23 PM | Report abuse

Boy meets girl. Girl dumps boy. Sounds fun.

Posted by: michaeljamesdrew | July 25, 2009 4:15 AM | Report abuse

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