The confused looks. The sudden bursts of laughter. The half-full room. These are all good signs. Not necessarily for the film, but these things reassure me that we are not the last people in the country to see (500) Days of Summer. Heading into the Savoy last Sunday night, I could not forsee the film justifying the fact that most of my acquaintances had already parted with their cash to see it – at least once – in the past month.
In the end it didn’t. It’s a nice film and parts of it were clever. It was mostly full of beautiful shots and the story had just enough subversive twists to set it apart from most other indie rom-coms. But everything about the film seemed a little too easy. We’ve all seen the slew of “indie” movies coming from American studios who are a little too big to be calling themselves indie in the past ten years. The formula has become simple, profitable and ubiquitous. We are now spoon-fed a supposedly quirky, but nonetheless heartwarming, indie success each year in the mould of Garden State, Little Miss Sunshine, Juno and now (500) Days of Summer. And hey, look, the soundtrack is like the Hype Machine‘s popular list!
It’s these similarly blatant attempts to pander to the increasingly mainstream indie market that stop me from enjoying the film. I like both of the main actors and I think their talents have yet to be put to good work. But this was all too easy. The casting of Deschanel in particular secured the cash of a generation of walking fringes for whom Zooey is their Audrey Tatou. They should do a census to see how many American males would consider themselves thoughtful, misunderstood, sensitive types and compare this with regional ticket sales for this film. Selling tickets to this kind of thing is easier than selling tickets to a Galway Utd v Bray Wanderers match, but then what isn’t?
From the way this film was marketed all year long, it was clear that their cool soundtrack was key to their gameplan. The trailer’s use of the endlessly appealing “Us” by Regina Spektor surely swayed a lot of excited Spektor fans although the unavoidable link between the film and The Temper Trap‘s “Sweet Disposition” is surely working more in favour of the latter. The song comes along twice in the film. Lord knows why. The first time it appears is an awkwardly trimmed snippet during a pointless scene where Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) takes his lovely lady on a tour around his favourite architectural sites in LA. The song’s only purpose is to help cover up the fact that they forgot to write anything intelligent regarding the architecture they observe. The second time, it gets a decent airing and masks not only the long train journey but the difficlt transition from being uneasy exes to heartily-laughing buddies. The problem for me was that their all-important soundtrack just feels like it was stuck on late in the game. With Pritt-Stick. Look at the woeful scene involving Feist‘s family-friendly ditty “Mushaboom”. It’s like watching an episode of One Tree Hill (yes, I’ve seen it) where the latest cool chart tracks are plastered all over every scene, relegating the actual dialogue to the level of DJ chit-chat. Oh well, the songs are pretty good though…