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Joseph Gordon-Levitt & Zooey Deschanel in (500) DAYS OF SUMMER (Photo: Chuck Zlotnick)

(500) DAYS OF SUMMER
Directed by
Marc Webb
Produced by
Jessica Tuchinsky, Mark Waters, Mason Novick & Steven J. Wolfe
Written by Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber
Released by Fox Searchlight
USA. 96 min. Rated PG-13
With
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel, Geoffrey Arend & ChloŽ Grace Moretz 
 

Summer (Zooey Deschanel) is not a normal girl. Sheís different, and she knows itómostly because men wonít let her forget it. Every guy she meets adores her. Her favorite Beatle is Ringo Starrónot because she particularly loves his music, but because heís not adored in droves like Paul or John. Heís just Ringo, the Beatle no one fawns over or commemorates parks after. Anonymity is a quality Summer idolizes because itís something sheís never felt beforeóthe grass is always greener.

Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a normal guy. No one fawns over him or commemorates parks in his name. Heís just a sensitive twentysomething whoís stunned when Summer, an assistant at Tomís greeting card company, comments on his choice of music after overhearing his loud headphones in an elevator. A pretty girl who listens to the Smiths? Impossible. And she noticed him? Unbelievable.

That these are not necessarily fated or exceptional qualities takes Tom 500 days to figure out. Because he thinks Summer is the most beautiful woman he could ever meet, she truly is that beautiful for him. Cutting back and forth through different days in their relationship and breakup like a time machine with a tendency towards ironic juxtapositions, music video director Marc Webb tours significant memories of Tomís 500 days of meeting, loving, hating, reconsidering, and finally getting over Summer, his dream girl.

What Gordon-Levitt simulates well here is the masculine softie. He plays Tom with a deft mix of little man syndrome and plucky cute-dork aplomb that makes his characterís story arc more believable than the writing warrants. Tomís swelling of feeling for the wrong female is the kind of unfortunate love that you canít imagine not having once begunóeven if youíre not loved back in the precise manner you would prefer.

Summer tells Tom throughout their relationship that she doesnít want to be in a relationship, but Tom ignores this again and again. Itís ridiculous. But itís also something everyoneís felt before. However, writers Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (the creative team behind Steve Martinís Pink Panther 2) donít portray Tom and Summerís relationship well. The characters are modern archetypes, and their situation rings true, but the storyline is so forced and the writing so cocksure of its own unconventionality that you canít help feeling burdened by the filmís fictitiousness. Youíll side with Summer in thinking that their relationship is a sham.

By rewinding and fast-forwarding through Tomís memories of his relationship with Summer, thereís an inherent focus on relationship highlights. Itís a clever idea because we get to see all the big events and the little moments that become iconic after a breakup. But their love lacks the connective tissue to convince viewers that what theyíre seeing in the filmís first half could have such a devastating effect on Tom in the second half.

No matter how charismatically Gordon-Levitt and Deschanel play young urban lovers, overwrought writing brings the film down, with too many contemporary references abounding. (The denouement involves a girl named Autumn.). The overuse of music from Feist, the Doves, the Smiths, and multiple songs from Regina Spektor only heighten how much the film creators are intentionally or unintentionally chasing a quirky ďadult contemporaryĒ label. Not coincidentally, the producers and editors of 2008ís Juno are also at work here. Zachary Jones
July 17, 2009

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