Watching the press premiere of '500 Days of Summer' at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival was one of the cinematic highlights of my year. The building hype for this film had already caused a mini frenzy of hope for what might be one of the best films at the festival. I was entranced from beginning to end. It was the middle of January and I had already seen what I still consider to be the best film of the year.
To categorize it as a rom-com would be doing the film a great disservice, not because rom-coms are necessarily bad, but because '500 Days of Summer' is in most ways indefinable. It eschews formula and predictability for something so original and lively that it seems impossible this film could have been generated by the Hollywood that we know now.
Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a hopeless romantic. The narrator explains to us that Tom came to the belief in "the one true love" from an overdose of sad British pop music, and a mistaken understanding of 'The Graduate.'
Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel) is Tom's true love, or so he thinks. Deschanel is perfect for this role. She's got that cute spunk about her that begs men to want her without really knowing why they do. She's utterly aloof the entire movie, like one of those girls who know exactly how to string a guy along as far as possible without breaking the line. It's easy to see how someone like Tom could become infatuated with someone like Summer. Part of the reason it's easy, is because we've all felt like Tom or Summer at some point in our lives.
When thinking back, it's hard to remember everything in a perfect chronological order. I'd venture to say that in the real world it's entirely impossible to remember our lives like Benjamin Button or Forrest Gump remembered and retold theirs. In '500 Days of Summer' we jump around in the chronology of Tom and Summer's relationship. Tom, at first, can't stop thinking about all the good things and good times. Upon further reflection however, Tom ends up seeing that things may not have been as perfect as he once thought.
At the beginning, we're informed that this "Isn't a love story." This is indeed true. As the story progresses we may find ourselves unconsciously hoping for a happy Hollywood ending that would require Summer to breakdown and accept Tom as her "one." But director Marc Webb is too smart to let that happen. In his feature directorial debut, Webb weaves a masterpiece of modern cinema. He uses every trick in the book, from a delightful musical song-and-dance number to some thought-provoking animated imagery. Never once do any of these techniques seem gimmicky, instead they add an aesthetic to '500 Days of Summer' that is unmatched.
At one point, Webb uses a split screen view to show us Tom's expectations for an event in contrast to the harsh reality. Who hasn't walked into a situation with a girl or guy without expectations as to how that night will play out? Webb's split screen fantastically recreates what so many of us have imagined in our heads only to have our dreams crushed by awakening reality.
Watching this Blu-ray of '500 Days of Summer' marked my fourth viewing of the film. It still hasn't lost any of the magic or surrealism that made me love it in the first place. It's still my favorite film of the year.
The transfer for '500 Days of Summer' is an accurate and at times stunning representation of the material. With its 1080p/AVC-encode, the film looks gorgeous for most of its run. It does take on somewhat of a softer appearance, but this is intentional and is a completely accurate representation of what I saw in theaters. Colors are rendered well throughout. Blues play a big part in this movie. Each and every shade of blue was used to make Zooey's eyes pop off the screen (This is some of the amazing information you can learn at Sundance when you attend one of the screenings where the stars have a Q & A afterwards. Joseph Gordon-Levitt let us in on that little insight) and they do. Fleshtones are rendered to perfection, only a few times does skin take on an orange hue, but I'm confident that is because of the filters that are used during some moments. Black levels are consistent, and delineation is revealing. I didn't detect any compression issues or digital artifacts.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is oddly quiet when it comes to an engaging surround sound experience. There are some scenes like city streets and a wedding party that engage the surround channels, but even then they seem overly subdued. The catchy soundtrack full of pop songs does well in the front channels, but again, when you think the music should bleed somewhat into the surround channels you don't get much. Voices and dialogue are perfectly rendered, mostly contained within the center channel. LFE is nearly silent, except when it kicks in for certain songs that need it, but even then it's pretty weak. I understand that a movie like this doesn't have a real need for bass, but when it is called upon it does seem to under perform just a tad. Overall, it's a serviceable audio presentation, one that gives the film an adequate soundstage, but it won't blow your socks off.
The special features on this Blu-ray disc are very mixed. When they're labeled "HD" they actually end up coming in at 1080i, except the "Mean's Cinemash" feature, which is 1080p. Most of the other features are Blu-ray exclusives, but they're only in SD. This perplexes me. Why would you put something that's only found on the Blu-ray, and still only make it in SD?
A Digital copy is included.
'500 Days of Summer' is original, spunky, and has one of the most perfect Han Solo references ever put on film. There's no contest as to why this is my personal favorite for the year. It bursts onto the screen with an intoxicating creativity that will be hard for first-time director Marc Webb to ever top. The video presentation on this Blu-ray is stunningly clear and nicely rendered throughout, while the audio presentation leaves a little to be desired. On the whole, '500 Days of Summer' comes highly recommended. It's a beautifully fun and delightful film, full of charm and expert filmmaking.