(500) Days of Summer (Blu-ray)
Directed by Marc Webb
Studio: Twentieth Century-Fox
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 95 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Spanish, Portuguese
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish, Portuguese, Thai, others
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: December 22, 2009
Review Date: December 21, 2009
A stunningly original bittersweet romantic comedy that has no peer in 2009 can be found in Marc Webb’s delightfully poignant (500) Days of Summer. Eschewing farcical gross-out jokes for the genuinely emotional joy and angst that are personally relatable to anyone who’s ever been in love, (500) Days of Summer makes a strong case as one of the best films of 2009 and certainly one of the most honest comedies in years. What a breath of fresh air in a genre that has needed resuscitation for quite some time!
Though he genuinely flips for new company executive assistant Summer (Zooey Deschanel), architect-cum-greeting card designer Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is warned by her that she’s not into having relationships; she merely wants to be friends who enjoy spending time with one another in and out of bed. Though the arrangement works for some months, Tom’s deeper feelings can’t help but feel thwarted when Summer makes no effort to want to get any closer than they already are. And then, just as suddenly, it appears she’s getting antsy and more distant, a sure sign for Tom that he needs additional insight into saving the relationship and taking them to the next level before she ends things with him. His younger sister Rachel (Chloe Grace Moretz) and friends McKenzie (Geoffrey Arend) and Paul (Matthew Gray Gubler) have their own advice for him about his dilemma.
The wonderfully inventive script by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber takes the story of Tom and Summer back and forth in time (represented by the varying “500 Days” of the title shown in screen slates) as we see jolly moments of blossoming love and engaging camaraderie as well as the sure signs of trouble and distance. In a series of terrific innovations to the standard narrative line, we get an ecstatic park dance musical number to “Make My Dreams Come True” (which will remind you of the Central Park dance number in Enchanted), a French New Wave film parody echoing the ambivalent/turbulent emotions Tom goes through in his desire for Summer, several split screen comparisons of Tom’s and Summer’s experiences (especially a late, very telling expectations/reality split screen sequence which is the film’s real climax), and Tom’s walking into one of his own inert greeting cards. Director Marc Webb weaves these contrasting sequences together with a surety that’s effortless, stumbling only on an ending that’s a bit too slick for its own good (the film’s one concession for popular appeal perhaps?) and the unnecessary use of a narrator that brings to mind occasionally the too-precious voiceovers used in the television series Pushing Daisies.
The performances are almost all delightful and spot-on. Joseph Gordon-Levitt runs the full range of emotions here as Tom, and the viewer believes every one of them, the ache on his face and in his eyes so palpable at times that it truly hurts to see him so vulnerable. Zooey Deschanel has a zippy, zephyr-like nonchalance as Summer that enthralls, and their scenes together when the couple is happy, particularly a fun sequence at IKEA as they try out various rooms for real, reminds one more of French comedies than American ones. Chloe Grace Moretz’s Rachel is a bit too wise for her years, a movie cliché that the rest of the film manages to rise above (though her character isn’t overused and the actress herself isn’t at fault), and Clark Gregg’s concerned boss along with Matthew Gray Gubler’s Paul and to a lesser extent Geoffrey Arend’s McKenzie make solid impressions.
The film’s 2.40:1 theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully delivered in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Sharpness is never an issue with the movie, and colors are pleasing without showing the extensive depth that high definition color often assumes. Black levels are good as is shadow detail, but there is some minor aliasing present which takes the viewer out of the movie experience momentarily. The film has been divided into 24 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is more front-centered than it needed to be with only Mychael Danna’s music score venturing into the rear channels on occasion. Dialogue is well recorded and placed securely into the center channel, but there is nothing remotely inventive about the use of sound in this particular sound mix.
The audio commentary features director Marc Webb, screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, and star Joseph Gordon-Levitt in an amiable, laidback chat between friends. Though three of the four guys sound enough alike so that it’s sometimes difficult to tell who’s speaking at any one time, the commentary does have some insight into the acting, directing, and acting facets of the film as they go through the movie scene-by scene.
Unless otherwise noted, the featurettes are presented in 1080i.
There are nine deleted/extended scenes which may be watched individually or in one 14 ¾-minute grouping and with or without commentary by Webb, Weber, Neustadter, and Gordon-Levitt.
“Not a Love Story: Making (500) Days of Summer” features the producers, writers, director, stars, production designer, and director of photography discussing their work on the film. The featurette runs 29 ½ minutes.
“Summer at Sundance” finds director Marc Webb describing the exhilarating feeling of premiering his picture at the Sundance Film Festival on January 17, 2009, to a packed and very enthusiastic house. This runs 13 ¾ minutes.
There are two audition tapes, both in 480i. The audition scene with actor Geoffrey Arend lasts 4 ½ minutes while the audition tape of Matthew Gray Gubler runs for 2 ½ minutes. Each may be viewed with or without the director’s commentary where he discusses what about each audition appealed to him and helped him to decide on their casting.
There are two storyboards involving Summer sequences from the film. Both may be watched with or without director commentary. The viewer may choose a full screen version of the animated storyboards or a storyboard-to-finished film split screen comparison. They run 1 ½ minutes.
“Bank Dance Directed by Marc Webb” is a delightful musical dance number featuring the film’s two stars in a fantasy robbery scenario complete with music video-style dance and background singing. It runs for 4 ¼ minutes in 480i.
“Mean’s Cinemash: Sid and Nancy/(500) Days of Summer” is a creative amalgamation of the two films with Zooey Deschanel playing Sid and Joseph Gordon-Levitt enacting Nancy as seen through the eyes of their characters in (500) Days of Summer. Presented in 1080p, this funny skit runs 3 ½ minutes.
The music video “Sweet Desperation” runs for 4 minutes in 480i.
The film’s stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel converse with each other in a 12 ½-minute 480i series of brief interviews as they talk about acting and living in Los Angeles.
“Behind (500) Days” is a series of four director musings on the making of the film: the casting segment runs for 2 minutes. The “Summer Effect” sequence is 1 ½ minutes long. The French film reference runs for 1 minute while the discussion of the film’s lighter color palette runs for 1 ¼ minutes. All are in 480i.
There are two Fox Movie Channel – In Character interviews. Zooey Deschanel’s runs for 2 ½ minutes while Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s lasts 3 ¼ minutes. Both are in 480i.
The second disc in the set is the digital copy of the film. There are enclosed instructions for installing it on PC and Mac devices.
There are 1080p trailers for Amelia, Fame, Adam, and All About Steve.
4/5 (not an average)
(500) Days of Summer is a wonderfully adult emotional roller coaster, a story many in the audience will have no trouble identifying with. Featuring a solid picture and sound presentation and some better than average bonus features, this Blu-ray release rates a firm recommendation.