Blu Review: (500) DAYS OF SUMMER
(500) Days of Summer, one of the year’s most refreshing and endearing romantic comedies, has arrived on DVD and Blu-ray, and it’s just as good as it ever was when we saw it in theaters. The whimsical love story of Tom Hansen and Summer Finn is an original and fun spin on traditional movie romances as the film chronicles 500 days of the relationship between Tom, a consummate believer in love, and Summer, the skeptic girl of his dreams.
Music video director Marc Webb makes his transition into the feature world and he, along with writers Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, populate the world of (500) Days with a cast of quirky and relatable characters. Set to a catchy pop soundtrack, and indeed Webb calls this a “pop movie,” the film nevertheless avoids being over-sentimental to the point of saccharine, nor is it so self-aware as to be disingenuous. It navigates that fine line perfectly, finding a successful harmony of off-the-cuff quips and emotion-loaded looks. The performances are universally wonderful, led by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel, culminating in one of the year’s best films.
Here’s the jist of what we thought in our original theatrical review of the film on the site:
“[(500) Days of Summer is] both funny and moving, as refreshing as it is honest, and thoughtful in one wave and provocative in another. It’s a unique mix of whimsy and real, a genuine portrait of a relationship embellished with the colors and soundtrack that only emotions can evoke in our lives. It’s a beautiful and immensely satisfying film…”
VISUAL: The film is presented in its native 2.40:1 widescreen aspect ratio, delivered in 1080p HD video using the AVC codec. The transfer is great. The colors pop where they’re supposed to, the blacks are crisp, and I didn’t notice any aliasing or compression issues. It plays beautifully in HD and is completely faithful to the image quality I saw in theaters.
AUDIO: The audio is in 5.1 DTS-HD Master. To be honest, the sound design on this movie doesn’t exactly call for a particular innovative use of the surround sound, though the sound mix does seem to be a little front-heavy. The score bleeds into the rear channels more, but otherwise the mix doesn’t really take advantage of the surround sound system. Not really an issue, as it doesn’t really detract from the film, though it certainly isn’t a highlight either.
EXTRAS: There are a ton of extras on the blu-ray, but a lot of the material has already premiered online. The behind-the-scenes featurette is better-than-average, but otherwise the extra features (though plentiful and all collected conveniently in once place) don’t offer too many exclusive gems. Here’s the breakdown:
- Audio commentary with director Marc Webb, star Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and writers Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber
- “Last Days of Summer,” deleted and extended scenes
- “Not a Love Story: Making-of Featurette”
- “Summer at Sundance,” video diary of director Marc Webb’s experiences taking the film to the Sundance Film Festival.
- Two audition tapes, for actors Geoffrey Arend and Matthew Gray Gubler
- Two storyboard sequences
- “Bank Dance,” directed by Marc Webb and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel
- Mean’s Cinemash: “Sid and Nancy/(500) Days of Summer“
- Music video for The Temper Trap’s “Sweet Disposition”
- “Conversations with Zooey and Joseph”
- “Filmmaking Specials” that include “Behind (500) Days,” four short videos of Webb’s musings on different aspects of the film, and “Fox Movie Channel: In Character Interviews” for Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt
- A second disc that contains a digital copy of the film
It’s more a chat between friends and collaborators than a detailed account of the filmmaking process, though there are some insights offered into how each approached their respective crafts. Having four commentators with similar voices made it tough to discern who was speaking sometimes, too.
Last Days of Summer (HD, 14:30 min)
There are 9 deleted/extended scenes total. You can watch them with optional commentary from Webb, Gordon-Levitt, Neustadter, and Weber as they either chat or occasionally discuss why a scene was cut. All the scenes seem to have been cut fairly late in the post process, as they are all properly color-timed and the sound has had at least a dialogue & effects mix. This is where you’ll find the scene where Tom sees Summer everywhere, including as every passenger on a bus, that some people noticed was in the trailer but missing from the theatrical cut. Two other notable scenes are extended segments of the “love testimonials” that are peppered throughout the film, and a post-break-up sequence where Tom re-walks his parade route.
Not a Love Story: Making-of Featurette (HD, 29:30 min)
This is a pretty decent behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film. We get interviews and footage of the producers, writers, director, cast, and crew commenting on how the film came together and was made. The production designer and costume designer insights are some under-appreciated gems, and it’s also interesting to hear Webb talk about pitching the film to Fox Searchlight.
Summer at Sundance (technically HD, but the footage was mostly shot in grainy, lowlight conditions, 14 min)
A video diary of director Marc Webb bringing the film to Sundance, with his hopes and fears for the debut of his first feature film. There are lots of cameos from the film’s cast and crew, and the feature provides a pretty nice addendum in showing us the pay-off of that first screening.
Audition Tapes (SD, 7 min)
Fairly forgettable audition tapes for Arend and Gubler, who played Tom’s friends McKenzie and Paul, respectively. There is an optional Marc Webb commentary track, however, that offers some pretty neat insight into why these actors were picked over others. Arend’s segment runs about 4 and a half minutes, Gubler’s runs 2 and a half minutes.
Summer Storyboards (SD, 4 min)
Two storyboards that you can watch in side-by-side comparisons with the filmed sequences, including the “Summer Effect” sequence (which explains the inexplicable appeal Summer has with men) and the “Reality/Expectations” sequence. There’s a commentary track with Marc Webb as well.
Bank Dance (SD, 4 min)
Essentially the (totally charming) music video for She & Him’s “Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?”, directed by Marc Webb and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel as a fox-trotting bank-robber-meets-beautiful-teller couple. We covered this on our site last August, and the video actually debuted online at USA Today (which is still available online for you to check out). The only shame is that the blu-ray copy doesn’t have an HD version of this video, which is almost puzzling because it would’ve fit in perfectly here.
Mean’s Cinemash: Sid and Nancy/(500) Days of Summer (HD, 3:30 min)
Another feature that we’ve covered on the site before, this is from Mean Magazine’s Summer 2009 short film series Cinemash, in which celebrities were recast into modern spins on famous movie scenes. This one was directed by Webb and featured Deschanel as Sid Vicious and Gordon-Levitt as Nancy (as (500) Days alluded to). Pretty good stuff.
“Sweet Disposition” Music Video by The Temper Trap (SD, 4 min)
A rather unremarkable music video for a catchy song, also totally available on YouTube (with lyric subtitles!). There’s actually another “official” music video for the song I found online that’s, if you can believe it, even more unremarkable.
Conversations with Zooey and Joseph (SD, 12:30 min)
A series of promotional videos that pit Deschanel and Gordon-Levitt together, asking each other pretty standard interview questions. They do go over what they love about LA though and their thoughts on the bad rap it gets (especially in movie depictions), so bonus points for that.
Filmmaking Specials: Behind (500) Days (SD, 6 min)
Four short videos that contain Webb’s reflections on what it was like casting the leads, designing the “Summer Effect” segment, the film’s unique color palette, and how French New Wave films influenced and were referenced in the movie.
Filmmaking Specials: Fox Movie Channel In Character Interviews (SD, 5 min)
Two more promotional videos where Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt talk about their characters from the film.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Just the quality of the movie alone makes it worth owning. It would’ve been nice to see some more exclusive HD content, but the current blu-ray isn’t entirely lacking, either. The plentiful (if not altogether exclusive/original) extra features make this blu-ray more than a strong recommendation for the average consumer.