Previews: “500 Days of Summer” and “Paper Heart”

These movies are coming out in the not-too-distant future. Can’t speak to whether or not the women in them are feminist music geeks, but the trailers suggest some geekery going on, and thus peaked my interest. Also, my friend Marlene posted them on Facebook.

So, first up we have (500) Days of Summer.

Directed by Marc Webb

Okay, so the positives first.

1. I like the leads. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is amazing in Mysterious Skin. Zooey Deschanel is charming and I’ve liked her in Elf, The Good Girl, and Almost Famous.

(Note: Ugh, something tells me I’ll have to get into Almost Famous on here at some point. To be brief, I kinda can’t stand that movie anymore, but still own my VHS copy from my late teens when I loved it. Fanboyness has ruined a lot of this movie’s appeal for me, as has growing tired of Cameron Crowe’s sentimentalism as I age. But people love this movie, so let’s get in a fight later.)

Okay, back to (500) Days of Summer.

2. Zooey sings in the trailer. Have you listened to She and Him? I really enjoy her and M. Ward together. If you need an album to make breakfast to, might I recommend Volume One? Deschanel’s got a warm, grainy voice. I gave Elf and Yes Man (a family choice at the multiplex during the holidays — please don’t judge) a pass for similar reasons. She even has a band in Yes Man, and wears cute coats.

3. Summer doesn’t believe in love. Like some people don’t believe in God or, to borrow from Tom, Santa. Hmm.

4. I guess Tom gets lame and Summer has enough and that’s where the plot thickens. I like it when ladies have had enough. Ah, that reminds me. I’ll probably also need to write up something on High Fidelity.

But I’ve also got some cons.

1. As happy as I want to be about Summer invading Tom’s male geek domain in the elevator by a) interrupting his loud, melancholic reverie, b) showing musical savviness by saying she loves The Smiths and then c) singing the chorus to “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out”, I can’t help but read this as a way to objectify Summer somehow. Maybe it has something to do with her sashaying out of the elevator and the camera cutting to Tom, slack-jawed and enamored, saying “Holy . . .”

1A. I’m sure some will bristle at the inclusion of The Smiths, or at least one of their more popular tunes, in a non-indie indie picture (Fox Searchlight, ya’ll). Perhaps they’ll get all territorial or offer up a more obscure song that could’ve been used. Personally, I don’t care. For one, Fox Searchlight has to appeal to a broad audience. For another, that particular song might mean a great deal to someone involved in the picture. For another, I just don’t care that much about The Smiths. Nothing personal. They just don’t do it for me. I tried liking them for four years (two years in high school, two years in college) and it didn’t click. However, I do love Schneider TM’s cover of said song.

2. Tom’s wonderment of Summer, combined with seeing her everywhere and claiming to want her back after the break-up kinda creeps me out. It doesn’t read as romantic so much as obsessive and predatory. But maybe that’s just the trailer.

3. This movie reads a little too closely as a template for romantic comedies co-starring the Manic Pixie Dream Girl (rarely is she the lead). Sad sack guy falls hard for madcap gal and is forever transformed by her, even though she really gets no character development (unless you think quirky dancing or being a fan of The Shins is development). Here’s hoping Summer gets some interiority.

4. Does this couple seem a little too white, middle-class, and straight to you? As I mentioned elsewhere, I think there’s room for progressive heterosexual romance in media, but there’s something a little too normative about this particular configuration. Again, maybe it’s just the preview.

On that tack, I like that Paper Heart is about an interracial couple. Better yet, the actors, Michael Cera and Charlyne Yi, might have some actual romantic history, thus blurring the line between documentary and feature.

Directed by Nicholas Jasenovec

Lots of pros:
1. Charlyne Yi co-wrote the screenplay.
2. Yi is multiracial and also kind of frumpy by Hollywood’s insane beauty standards. I like that the movie stars a “regular-looking” woman of color. One that co-wrote the script? Even better!
3. Dude, Yi is a musician and helped score the movie. Maybe she’ll play some songs!
4. Yi is 12 years older than Cera. Blah-dow.
5. “Charlyne Yi” the character doesn’t believe in love. While of course this gets tested, I like that she’s skeptical and unsentimental about it, and am curious as to how her feelings will develop.
6. Why hello, Bill Haverchuck. Yes, I see you, Ken Miller.
7. I want to be friends with the girl who says that love is buying someone hot wings at Applebee’s. She’s wise.

I may be jumping the gun by conceptualizing Paper Heart as a romantic comedy with, about, and for music geeks, but something tells me that it is and that this will be, if not a good movie, at least an interesting one.

My big ick with both of these movies is that they seem pretty cute. I’m pretty cute-averse, as a rule. I always have been. But maybe these movies won’t cross the line. We’ll see.


  1. Caitlin

    Great points about “500 Days of Summer”; upon watching the trailer, I immediately had flashbacks to “Garden State” in terms of the aesthetics and the romantic relationship. I also fear any movie (“Paper Heart” included) in which the conceit is that the female character “doesn’t believe in love.” To me, that’s a set-up for conversion that I’m sure will be regressive.

    I do think that “Paper Heart” has a great deal more potential. And did you know that Charlyne Yi is also a comedian? It’s always nice to see more women comedians.

  2. feministmusicgeek

    Caitlin, I totally agree with you on both movies. I fear “Paper Heart” may be a bit regressive in terms of its set-up too. I also worry that it could put the self-reflexive “real movie” aspect of it could put the “vanity” in “vanity project.” But, like you, I believe in its potential.

    Good point about Yi being a comedienne (which I didn’t know until I started looking stuff up on her) and how we need to see more of them. I do remember her as Grace Park, Kenneth Parcell’s ex-girlfriend and fellow page in an episode of “30 Rock.” She didn’t really have any lines, as I remember, but was a really great “straight” woman.

  3. Pingback: “(500) (excrutiating) Days of Summer” « Feminist Music Geek
  4. Pingback: “(500) (excruciating) Days of Summer” « Feminist Music Geek

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