Interview: 500 Days of Summer Director Marc Webb
Tue, 22 Dec 2009 10:05:49
(500) Days of Summer Videos
However, nothing is also funnier than the results of Cupid missing his mark.
Marc Webb's 500 Days of Summer masterfully examines heartbreak with a healthy dose of hilarity. Webb has crafted a modern comedy classic by turning romcom conventions upside down and inside out.
In 500 Days of Summer, the filmmaker deconstructs a failed relationship between Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Summer (Zooey Deschanel) through an ethereal lens and a chopped-up narrative that propels the film along at lightspeed. Webb allows the relationship space to blossom and each laugh feels genuine.
500 Days of Summer director Marc Webb sat down with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino to discuss unrequited love, growing up, the music in 500 Days of Summer and just how dreamy Zooey Deschanel is.
Also check out exclusive video of Zooey and Joseph talking about music here!
For you, is 500 Days of Summer more about unrequited love or finding "the wrong one?"
Well, I think those are often similar things. My view on Tom is he's a little bit naïve, but it's a very sympathetic naïvete. It's a place that we've all been before, and I think it's a little bit of laziness masquerading as hopeless romanticism in Tom's case. There's a scene outside of the karaoke bar, and he's sort of on his heels. Zooey says, "Do you like me?" He's like, "Well, of course!" She responds, "Do you like me, like me?" They have this weird conversation, and it's very awkward but we've all been in that position before. If he was really willing to put it out there, grab the girl and kiss her, it would've gone in a different direction. He just expects the universe to take care of his issues—to present some woman on a silver platter. We all want that [Laughs]! At the end of the movie, he asks the girl out, she says, "No" and he takes it like a man. To me, that's the arc of his character. It's about somebody learning to ask a girl out. In terms of love, that means you have to take responsibility for it. It requires maintenance and care. It's not just something that happens to you. That's my view on it, and that's buried inside the movie. It's more implicit than it is explicit. That's my sense of what this movie's about. It's more of a coming-of-age story.
Tom grows up a lot. The way you describe his journey is really unique. How did you approach telling this story? Did you always want to split up the narrative?
We played around with the structure a little bit, but that was always a part of the script. Even before I came on board, the writers had that idea. I think it's important because it's a commentary on memory. Tom's comparing and contrasting these events, and gradually the truth is coming into focus. That shuttling back and forth allows the audience to compare and contrast in the same way. That IKEA scene has a joke that really lands at one part of the relationship and doesn't work at another part of the relationship. It allows you to analyze the information as they're experiencing it. That was the important to the characters' growth and the audience's participation in the film. The key part of telling the story for me is I wanted to put the audience in Tom's shoes. I wanted us to feel what he felt. I wanted us to look at the world the way he looked at the world. There are real simple concrete examples of that. We never really enter a room until he's entered a room. You don't look at a building from up on high. You look at it from down below. You look at Summer as he does, both literally and metaphorically. He sees her as more of an idea than a person, which is part of his problem. He doesn't really get too deep into who this girl is. I think that's a sympathetic problem. It's something we all do, but there's a consequence to that. At the end of the movie, he's a little more eager to look deeper.
Summer has an ethereal quality that comes from the camera angles and filmmaking techniques.
Well, it's also Zooey! Zooey has this quality that borders on ethereal. She's mesmerizing. She's so beautiful and unique-looking, but there's something calming about her. There's a mercurial quality that's really at play in this movie that's really important. A lot of that work was done for me by Zooey, I've got to say. Casting her was one of the most important dominoes to push over that made this movie click with people.
So many guys go through what Tom is going to. It's tough to watch at moments, because if you're a guy, you know that pain.
We're not supposed to talk about it, and we're certainly not supposed to make movies about it usually—typically any way. This is a weird movie. No studio really wanted to do it because the romcom structure and conceit, if it's not two-handed, is usually told exclusively from the woman's point-of-view. It sort of becomes wish-fulfillment for women. We didn't really do that. It didn't fit in that box. Even though I think the tone is very accessible, fun and pop, the basic theme of the movie wasn't. I think that scared a lot of studios off. Fortunately, I think it's what attracted Searchlight and drew me to the material. There's a lot at play there.
How involved were you in selecting music for the film?
I had a lot to do with it. Scott Neustadter the writer is a huge Smiths fan. He wrote one of the songs into the script. A lot of the music, I heard through my days doing music videos and my music background—like Wolfmother and Regina Spektor. I did a couple of videos for Regina. I tried to choose the music beforehand, and luckily everybody on board was down with that. Scott has really good taste in music. He's a bigger Smiths fan than I am for sure. Every relationship has a soundtrack. I think there are songs that invoke people in our past in a really specific way, and we wanted to touch on that. There was a way to do something that felt both uplifting and a little bit provoking. I always want the lyrics of the music to inform the scene in a subtle way. I don't think anyone gets that the first time they watch the movie, but if you watch the "Beyond Expectations" scene and listen to what Regina is saying, she becomes the default narrator in that sequence. That happens a lot, and sometimes it's more subtle than others. The IKEA scene is another example where you can say something explicitly through lyrics that you can't say through dialogue. The Doves have that song in the movie, and the singer is saying, "There goes the fear." He's singing it to a melody, and it goes straight to our subconscious. You couldn't have the character say, "Wow, I'm not scared anymore, this is really exhilarating!" It works with the lyrics though.
Check out Rick Florino's new novel Dolor available now for FREE here…