Every now and then you come across a film that sends little jolts of electricity through your body, making the tiny hairs on your arm stand up and your lips to part and your eyes to dialate. You see a movie that lifts you out of a sticky reclining seat and into the ether, where you’re looking at a screen for an hour and a half but it feels like thirty seconds.
“Garden State” was that kind of movie — a film that made me breathless after seeing it, desperate to grab the soundtrack and relive a little bit of what had me so transfixed.
And now I can say, unequivocally, that “500 Days Of Summer” is all of that — and more.
The movie’s tagline explains, “This is not a love story. This is a story about love.” And the players in our story about love? Tom, an L.A.-based greeting card writer and artist, and Summer, a woman who arrives from Michigan and promptly carries Tom’s belief about destiny around in her hairbow-laden ponytail.
Tom is utterly captivated by her — by her laugh, her smile, her eyes, her teeth. He’s smitten. And the film is a chronicle of his love for her . . . and his eventual return to himself. Because this is, after all, Tom’s story of returning to the land of the living — shedding his ambivalence and complacency, opening his eyes to the world and recognizing that he has something major to contribute to it.
Of course, it’s also a heartbreakingly realistic look at falling in love — the way in which the object of one’s desire consumes their thoughts, plans, energy. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is masterful as Tom — totally expressionate, moving, real. Zooey Deschanel’s Summer is ethereal, funny, beautiful . . . and, in many ways, unattainable. This doesn’t detract from Tom’s feelings of her, which are etched across his face in every scene.
And, as my sister and I frequently whispered to each other, “He’s like the perfect guy.” And one seriously fantastic dresser.
Though Tom is certainly an adult, this is ultimately a coming-of-age story. It’s a before and after. It’s a fantastic, goosebump-raising look at love, loss and having the courage to be vulnerable, open and honest in a world of, well, e-mail, text messages and greeting-card sentiments doing the hard stuff for us.
It’s too hard for me to say succinctly why I felt like someone had reached into my chest, wrapped their fingers around my heart and started pulling — but that’s just what happened. I spent most of the film with my head bent toward my sister, tears welling in my eyes, and I couldn’t have lost more track of time if I tried. When the credits started to roll and the music swelled, I felt like I’d been on a trip to Pluto and just been dropped back to Earth.
I guess I’ve just been there. And the fact that a team of writers, actors, producers and a director could make a film that feels as though my own heart has been laid bare is no small feat. I’ll be thinking about this one for a long time to come . . . and rushing home to download the soundtrack tonight!