‘Writers Choice’ is a monthly segment. Each month a theme will be chosen and the contributors asked to choose a film to mini-review based around said theme. This month’s theme is ‘summer’.
While not strictly a film set in summer, this bittersweet story of contemporary relationships is a striking reflection of love and realism in the modern age. In an era where romantic ‘comedies’, often featuring an archetypal female character that falls directly into the hands of a similarly predictable male, are thrown at us from every corner possible, this simple portrayal of unrequited love is satisfyingly refreshing. Our protagonist is Tom Hansen, a humble greeting card writer by day and hopeless romantic by night, the latter of which is a trait in males that is becoming increasingly popular in media outlets, notably in Ted Mosby, courtesy of How I Met Your Mother, who searches far and wide in the hope of ‘true love’. Tom’s journey to find said notion is embedded with complications as he, along with the audience, gradually comes to realise that relationships do not always end quite as happily as Hollywood would have us believe.
As the opening line of the first scene tells us, the story of Tom and the Summer of the title is not exactly a love story but, rather, a story about the disappointments of an overrated emotion. For me, what makes this movie so enjoyable is its independence from other pieces of its genre, which comes primarily in the form of its presentation of females. Summer’s unflinching willingness to fend for herself, along with her enthusiasm for The Smiths, is a powerful contrast to the dull women that are so often poorly conveyed in clichéd romances. Ultimately, 500 Days of Summer is a fascinating and relatable tale of the difficulties and the joys that come with all relationships, but which also serves a stark warning to young romantics as to what can happen while in and out of love. -Hannah
Sometimes birthdays don’t feel like the mark of growing older, but September does. It’s the first day of school in a new grade. You mark your new founded growth by saying “I’m a seventh grader now…” or “I’m a senior.” It’s the fall, the leaves have changed and so have you. Those changes all happen in the summer, those three months of joy before school start. But the more and more summers that pass by, the older you get. Your childhood innocence slowly gives way to impending adulthood.
Rob Reiner’s ‘Stand by Me’, based on Stephen King’s short story, is an iconic coming-of-age classic that takes place in the summer of 1959. It tells the story of four friends with different backgrounds and personalities. It is the last summer before they are teenagers, in the fall they will be in junior high. Not only will they no longer be children, but their close-knit group will be split up when they all take different classes. Determined to have an adventure before school starts, they decide to go on a journey to see the dead body of a local missing boy. What better way to mark the end of your childhood by coming face to face with death for the first time?
Summer is inevitably analogous to childhood. As an adult, summer doesn’t usually mean much. You still work, pay the bills, maybe you have some time for a brief vacation. But for a kid it’s an exciting time to spend with friends out of the confines of school and responsibility. In summer, the possibilities are endless. “Stand By Me” tells the story of the end of those blissful times as a kid, before it all gave way to an adult’s nostalgic story of the past. –Caroline
Based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel, The Great Gatsby focuses on the events of one summer in 1920’s New York, seen through the eyes of protagonist Nick Carraway. The plot is intricate and hard to describe without spoilers, but after moving into a small cottage in ‘West Egg,’ Nick is drawn to his mysterious neighbour Jay Gatsby, who is famous for his extravagant parties. The film also follows the lives of Daisy (Nick’s cousin) and Tom Buchanan, who have a miserable marriage and are complete victims of the ‘Jazz Age’ as all they care about is status and wealth. As storylines intertwine it is revealed that Gatsby just wants to ‘repeat the past’ and win back his first love Daisy, however Gatsby’s social status and Daisy’s unhappy marriage get in the way, with some dire consequences.
Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of the novel depicts the ‘roaring twenties’ successfully; from Gatsby’s lavish parties in his enormous mansion to the lifeless setting of The Valley of Ashes, I think the film really does bring The Great Gatsby to life, with every scene having immaculate detail. It is also worth watching for the unusual yet surprisingly good soundtrack, with Beyoncé and Jay Z fitting effectively with the 1920’s setting.
Carey Mulligan plays the part of flirtatious Daisy Buchanan well, however Leonardo DiCaprio’s portrayal of Gatsby is definitely one of my favourite DiCaprio roles, as he captures Gatsby’s hope and desire for Daisy entirely. I also think Tobey Maguire makes a great Nick Carraway.
Overall the film completely lives up to the novel- the enormous amount of symbolism in the book (for example the green light) is executed well in the film. I love everything about this film; the screenplay and acting are exceptional, as is the directing and beautiful cinematography. –Laura
To me there’s nothing that screams ‘summer movie’ like Jesse Eisenberg working in an amusement park. Jesse’s penchant for off-beat, dry-humoured characters, most definitely does not transcend this movie. His character James Brennan, a college graduate hoping to visit Europe during the summer and attend Journalism school in the fall, finds himself a lil short on the old $$$$$ and gets himself a shitty summer job at Adventureland, an amusement park in his hometown of Pittsburgh (so all in all, not that shitty really). Here he meets Em, played by the lovely Kstew, the reckless moody stoner type is the girl of James’ dreams but she’s sleeping with an older guy who also works at the park. Whilst Em is the main object of James’ desires as he tries desperately not to get fired he’s also joined by Martin Starr (!!BILL HAVERCHUCK!! )) as Joel, a dead-pan co-worker, Lisa P, the sexy vivacious hottie of the staff and Tommy Frigo who is meant to be James’ childhood friend but pretty much just hits in in the balls the majority of the movie. The story navigates the troubled waters of love, sex and summer flings splashed along the back-drop of fairground rides and coconut shy’s accompanied by a great 80s soundtrack featuring the likes of Lou Reed, David Bowie and The Cure. In all honestly, if my shitty summer job got me hooked up with KStew then it would be a million times more bearable. –Chloe
Moonrise kingdom is my favourite summer movie because it explores that nostalgic dream inside of us all to run away into the wilderness, loaded with a scout’s supplies and your pet kitten, forgetting about responsibilities for a while. It is late summer in 1965, on a small, roadless island. Sam is an intelligent kakhi scout who stumbles across Suzy by sneaking away from his troop at a church concert and into the girls changing rooms where Suzy and her class mates are all dressed as woodland birds. (No, I said, what kind of bird are YOU?) Suzy is a fantasist who steals her moms makeup, wears sunday school shoes and reads adventure books. They begins writing letters to each other for a year until they begin their plan to run away into the woods together using Sam’s scout skills and Suzy’s books and binoculars to survive and disappear from their dissatisfying lives. Sometimes running away from everything isn’t as easy as it seems, as the two 12 year olds become missing person’s, hunted by social services, the island police, violent scout troops and angry parents. The film plays out as an eccentric, but not pretentious, creative little film that will inspire the adventurer inside anyone. Whenever I see this film I always feel a strong urge to go out and explore the nature that is around me, build a campfire in the woods, go river wading, whatever unless it’s staying inside the house. There’s the beautiful colour co-ordinated and symmetrical cinematography, as anticipated with any Wes Anderson flick, charming characters played by the talents of Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman, as well as Norton, Willis and Murray, and a cutesy, exciting score make this one of the best movies of 2012. A runaway adventure for the adolescent inside all of us. Don’t forget your lefty scissors. Tws: animal death, electroshock therapy mention, blood -Katie
Even though I’m now nineteen and haven’t been to school in a year, there’s a feeling that I’m never going to forget. The freedom I always felt on the last day of term is, that feeling. The pure joy of knowing I did not have to get up at half seven every morning just to do homework till I fell asleep, or wear a uniform everyday that lacked individuality and any sort of creativity, it’s a feeling I think is sort of epitomised in Richard Linklater’s 1993 Dazed and Confused. Set in the May of 1976 it follows a group of friends on their last day of school before their last year of school, kinda like the last summer they know for sure their going to all be together before moving away/getting on with the rest of their lives. The film doesn’t have much of a plot. It just kind of meanders from character to character and conversation to conversation – mostly about the party their having that night (and subsequently beer) – there’s also lotsa pot and general hanging around. Which is really what summer is all about… not doing much, just kind of floating not doing anything but at the same time having like the best time ever. It always reminds me of the laid-back barbeques/camping nights my friends and I had at the river by our town. No fuss, no real concentration or action filled lines to follow and no real…direction. It’s the simplicity of it all that makes Dazed and Confused so great, it’s so relatable for the people who (like me) do pretty much nothing all summer except chill with pals and talk about nothing really. It’s also the acting debut of Matthew McConaughey and the birth of his catchphrase ‘alright alright alright’, which he can pretty much thank for being famous, imo. And although I can’t relate to the 70’s vibe, rock n roll is forever, and is a must in any summer activity – ending the film with a road trip to grab some Aerosmith tickets = perfection. –Mel
Drive-in restaurants with waitresses on roller skates, drag racing (in bitchin’ vintage cars) and a fantastic soundtrack are all something you’ll find in this coming-of-age story set over one summer night in a small town in California, 1962. The film follows the lives of four teenagers who have just graduated from high school and are getting ready to go off to college. There’s the conservative, all-American type nice guy, Steve Bolander who tries to fix things with his girlfriend after telling her they shouldn’t be together. His best friend Curt, who is anxious and confused about college and spends his last night searching for a mysterious blond in a Ford Thunderbird. The tough drag racing dude John, who spends most of his night driving around a young and annoying teenager who doesn’t really stop talking. And the awkward and nerdy guy, Terry, who although hasn’t had much experience with girls, ends up spending his night talking to a cute, flirtatious, blond named Debbie. American Graffiti is one of those movies that leaves you feeling really nostalgic- even though you weren’t even born in that time period. We can all relate to that melancholic and bitter sweet feeling that nears with the end of summer as we try to grasp onto what little time we have left of pure freedom and rebellious youth. –Rena