(500) Days of Summer (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
January 6, 2010 by Dennis Amith
Definitely one of my top films of 2009! Structurally innovative, fun and truly captivating. For fans of the film, this is a wonderful Blu-ray release worth owning! Highly recommended!
Images courtesy of © 2009 Twentieth Century Fox. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: (500) Days of Summer
DURATION: 95 Minutes
BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Widescreen 2:40:1, AVC @ 33 MBPS, English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish, French and Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, Portuguese, Cantonese, Mandarin and Thai
RATED: PG-13 (Sexual Material and Language)
COMPANY: Twentieth Century Fox
RELEASE DATE: December 22, 2009
Directed by Marc Webb
Written by Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber
Producer: Mason Novick, Jessica Tuchinsky, Mark Waters, Steven J. Wolfe
Co-Producer: Scotty Hyman
Associate Producer: Veronica Brooks
Music by Mychael Danna, Rob Simonsen
Cinematography by Eric Steelberg
Edited by Alan Edward Bell
Casting by Eyde Belasco
Production Design by Charles Varga
Set Decoration by Jennifer Lukehart
Costume Design by Hope Hanafin
Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Tom Hansen
Zooey Deschanel as Summer Finn
Geoffrey Arend as McKenzie
Chloe Moretz as Rachel Hansen
Matthew Gray Gubler as Paul
Clark Gregg as Vance
Patricia Belcher as Millie
Rachel Boston as Alison
Minka Kelly as Autumn
Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love. Girl doesn’t. Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment presents the critically acclaimed, offbeat romance that proves when it comes to love some people know nothing at all as (500) Days of Summer arrives on Blu-ray Disc (BD) and DVD December 22. Zooey Deschanel (Yes Man) and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra) star in this quirky romantic comedy about love and fate, as a young greeting card writer (Gordon-Levitt) who is hopelessly, helplessly searching for the girl of his dreams… and his new co-worker, Summer Finn (Deschanel), may just be “the one.” But the 500 days of their offbeat relationship reveal (in no particular order) that the road to happiness can be unpredictable, uncontrollable — and unbelievably funny! From first time feature film director Marc Webb (Jesse McCartney: Up Close), the hilarious true-to-life film also stars Matthew Gray Gubler (Alvin and the Chipmunks) and Clark Gregg (“The New Adventures of Old Christine”) in a unique dissection of the uncertain and whimsical year-and-a-half of one young man’s no-holds-barred love affair, where he learns that love can be difficult, but it’s also by far the best thing life has to offer.
For producers, Mark Waters (director of “The Spiderwick Chronicles”, “Mean Girls”, “Freaky Friday”) and Jessica Tuchinksy, it was all about finding the best original script. And its when they found a screenplay fir “(500) Days of Summer” by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (both wrote the script for “The Pink Panther 2”), that they new they had something special.
With director Marc Webb (“Seascape”, “Jesse McCartney: Up Close”), cinematographer Eric Steelburg (“Juno”, “Numb”), music by composers Mychael Danna (“The Time Travelers Wife”, “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus”) and Rob Simonsen (“Sophie Sapna”, “Management”) and adding the talents Joseph Gordon-Levitt (“The Lookout”, “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra”, “10 Things I Hate About You”) and Zooey Deschanel (“The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”, “The Happening”).
The independent film which cost about $7.5 million to make, was screened at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival and was an instant hit with the audience that it was picked up for distribution by Fox Searchlight Pictures and when the film went public in theaters, “(500) Days of Summer” would make around $40 million worldwide. The film would go on to receive numerous awards and nominations and now the film receives its Blu-ray and DVD release, with the Blu-ray coming with a digital copy of the film.
“(500) Days of Summer” is a romantic comedy about Tom Hansen (Gordon-Levitt) and Summer (Deschanel) and what took place over 500 days when they first met with each other. The story is told via a non-liner narrative which explains Tom’s mentality and how he goes from a person who’s mentality of relationships were shaped by the 80’s UK music he listened to and then shifting to a linear storyline of how his relationship with Summer was over.
The film jumps from day 1 introducing us to Tom and how he first met Summer and then how the two became romantically involved and jumping forward to showing how his romantic life went from the greatest to the worst and seeing the evolution of their short-lived romance.
Tom is an architect who works for a greeting card company. He’s had this bleak outlook towards relationships but it was when his company brought in a new assistant named Summer (Deschanel) when his life changes for the best. While riding an elevator, she comments on him listening to The Smiths “There is Light that Never Goes Out” and the fact that she knows his music catches his attention. With Tom never having a relationship, he gets advice from his longtime friends McKenzie (played by Geoffrey Arend, “Trust Me”) and Paul (played by Matthew Gray Gubler, “Criminal Minds”, “Alvin and the Chipmunks” films), who are just as useless since McKenzie has not had a relationship since 7th grade and Paul has dated the same girl since grade school. But the only person who does give him sound advice is his younger sister Rachel (played by Chloe Moretz).
Eventually, Tom and Summer grow closer through their office events. Summer tells him that she doesn’t believe in love, Tom disagrees. But its when they were at the copy room where Summer makes the first move by kissing him. As the two share their time together, Summer never calls their fling a relationship but for Tom, he feels that they truly bond with each other.
But their relationship is shortlived as on day 290, Summer just wants to be friends and from that point Tom spirals downward as he doesn’t take the break up quite well as he doesn’t understand why this is happening and we see how Tom changes for the worst but also how he eventually gets better through time.
VIDEO & AUDIO:
“(500) Days of Summer” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 Widescreen), AVC @ 33 MBPS. For the most part, picture quality is well done. The details on the walls, skin tones are natural, blacks are black but its very important to note that the director Marc Webb was very particular with the color palette. In the special features, he wanted to make sure that certain characters had certain colors.
For example, only when you see Summer will you see the color blue. When you see Tom, you will see more grays. He was quite picky on what colors would be seen in the film and what colors he didn’t want to see as much of. So, primary colors are somewhat muted deliberately. The film has a fine layer of grain and overall, the film is quite solid when it comes to PQ.
As for audio quality, lossless audio is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and also includes an English description for the visually impaired, 5.1 Dolby Digital in Spanish, French and Portuguese. This film is a romantic comedy that has an emphasis on music. Dialogue is clear and understandable from the center channel, while music can be heard from the front channels. There is very little use of the surround channels. Mostly crowd ambiance but nothing major. The audio quality is satisfactory for this kind of film.
Subtitles are provided in English SDH, Spanish, Portuguese, Cantonese, Mandarin and Thai.
“(500) Days of Summer” comes with the following special features:
- Audio Commentary by Director Marc Webb, writers Michael H. Weber and Scott Neustadter and Actor Joseph Gordon Levitt – A humorous, fun, upbeat and informative commentary track.
- Lost Days of Summer: Deleted and Extended Scenes – Featuring nine deleted and extended scenes with optional commentary by director Marc Webb, writers Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber and actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
- Bank Dance directed by Marc Webb – (4:18) A short film featuring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel. Gordon-Levitt plays a bank robber, Deschanel the bank teller and both start dancing together.
- Mean’s Cinemash: “Sid and Nancy/(500) Days of Summer” – (3:28) A parody of “Sid and Nancy” featuring Zooey Deschanel as Sid and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Nancy.
- Not a Love Story: Making of Featurette – (29:21) Interviews with director Marc Webb, producers Jessica Tuchinsky, Mark Waters, Mason Novick, Steven J. Wolfe, the cast of the film, the set design, the music and more on the making of (500) Days of Summer.
- Conversations with Zooey and Joseph – (12:26) Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel talk about their longtime friendship and working on the film. From discussions of acting and reality, filming in Los Angeles, karaoke, the creative process, music and more.
- Music Video: “Sweet Disposition” by the Temper Trap – (4:01)
- Filmmaking Specials: Behind (500) Days – Director Mark Webb discusses casting Joe and Zooey (2:05), the Summer Effect (1:35), French film references (:58), the color palette (1:11).
- Fox Movie Channel presents in Character with Zooey Deschanel – (2:38) Zooey Deschanel talks about her character Summer.
- Fox Movie Channel presents in Character with Joseph Gordon-Levitt – (3:08) Joseph Gordon-Levitt talks about his character Tom.
- Summer at Sundance – (13:46) Director Marc Webb, producers, crew and cast prepare for the film screening at Sundance and the audience response after they watched the film.
- Audition Tapes – Featuring the audition tapes of Geoffrey Arend (4:23, McKenzie), Matthew Gray Gubler (2:38, Paul) with optional commentary by Director Marc Webb.
- Summer Storyboards – Featuring storyboards and storyboard/film comparisons for Summer Effect, Reality/Expectations.
“(500) Days of Summer” takes a story of guy meets girl, things don’t go well and where most stories would end up finding a way to bring the two back together, the film does something quite different in that it shows how a relationship can go from great to something corrupted and when it’s over, it’s over. It’s storytelling using the days and going back and forth through linear and non-linear storyline definitely makes this film structurally innovative.
But without going the direction of making this romantic comedy too mature or cliche, I found the pop culture references to be quite fantastic. From Tom listening to depressing UK music, for anyone who grew up listening to the Smiths or Depeche Mode can only laugh and be amused by Tom’s character. And music plays a big part in the enjoyment of “(500) Days of Summer” as Tom who starts to fall for Summer starts playing The Smiths “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want” on his computer to him and his friends singing at karaoke or listening to music that plays while they drive in their car and a memorable musical scene as Tom has his first sexual experience and prompts him to take part in a musical dance experience to Hall & Oates “You Make My Dreams”.
But as the film showcases music through hearing it, seeing it on the t-shirts of Tom’s character to how these characters embody music (note: both Gordon-Levitt and Deschanel outside of acting are also accomplished musicians or in a band), cinemaphiles can also enjoy the various references to films such as “The Graduate” and for those familiar with films by Fellini, Truffaut and Bergman. I felt the film’s using clips from these films was wonderful, especially how Tom and Summer have different interpretations of the ending of “The Graduate”.
There are very interesting stylistic choices that Marc Webb took in “(500) Days of Summer” but in the end, everything works. Both Gordon-Levitt and Deschanel have great chemistry and their performance in the film is fantastic. Almost similar to a Godard or even a Rohmer film, there are many short scenes that stay in your mind and you can’t help but adore them. From Tom and Summer having fun at IKEA to them sitting at the park screaming “penis”, it’s something that you would see from French New Wave films from the 1960’s and used quite well in this film.
As for the Blu-ray release, there are plenty of special features that fans of the film will truly enjoy. The fact that both talents also partake in parody’s of “Sid and Nancy” and even do a musical dance scene in “Bank Dance”, just shows how much fun the filmmakers and the talent had with each other. From the making of the film to documenting the screening of the film at Sundance was another wonderful addition. And as for picture and audio quality, again…stylistic risks that Webb employed in removing the primaries and selecting which colors he wanted to use in the film was quite interesting and the use of music in the film was well-done.
Overall, I found “(500) Days of Summer” to be a remarkable film. I know some of my cinemaphile acquaintances tend to compare this film with the classic Woody Allen film “Annie Hall” or Gondry’s “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and to pick apart its ideology and then some who call this an indie love film that serves purpose for a new generation. Personally, I looked at this film as a true and honest film similar to a “Say Anything” about relationships and breakups but not having to go with the typical story cliche. When I saw the ending reference to “The Graduate” which was featured in this film, the first thing that came to my mind is that I hope the writers and the director are going to keep things real and not become the typical romantic comedy that we’ve seen many times before. The director and writers already took creative risks, stylistic choices, added many twists and turns and even the La Nouvelle Vague references made me want something different and sure enough it happened. And in the end I was more than satisfied.
“(500) Days of Summer” is highly recommended!
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