We all know the genre drill -- boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy and girl have some music montage moments of great joy and compelling sorrow, boy loses girl, last act plot twist tosses boy and girl back together as if fated by the gods themselves, fairy tale ending preserved, and date night entertainment is once again served. But where are the stories where destiny actually dumps on us, when the supposed interpersonal perfection of the boy/girl of our dreams is actually the fuel for a long-festering future distrust of the opposite sex? The answer is Marc Webb's wonderful (500) Days of Summer. While perhaps a tad too quirky for its own good, this is still one of the best, most insightful romantic comedies in a very long time. Article continues below
Failed architect turned greeting card writer Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is really unlucky in love. His best friends McKenzie (Geoffrey Arend) and Paul (Matthew Gray Gubler) constantly chide him about his dire, dateless nights. All of that changes the minute he meets Michigan transplant Summer (Zooey Deschanel). New to the office, she finds him charming and funny. In Tom's tainted eyes, however, she's the girl of his dreams. Over the course of 500 crazy days, the duo finds common ground (a love of The Smiths) and one massive hurdle to any longstanding relationship -- Summer doesn't believe in love. She doesn't mind being intimate, or spending time with someone she cares about, but unlike Tom, she doesn't view companionship as something destined or fated.
As insightful about the generation it is depicting as it is clever about relationships and romantic yearnings in general, (500) Days of Summer is a delight. Sure, it goes for eccentricity when honesty would play just as well, but when push comes to shove, there hasn't been a more sincere movie about the power and pitfalls of love -- especially viewed from the oft-forgotten guy's point of view. Tom, played with terrific self-effacing truth by Gordon-Levitt, is our dreamer here. He believes in all the magic and cinematic fables. For him, love is a big, brooding bucket of sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows. It's Deschanel's demanding Summer who sees through the entire Hallmark ruse. For her, life and how it's lived is more important than any sappy moon/June/spoon affections.
Their back and forth feelings, realized in video director turned feature filmmaker Webb's tasty vignettes, have a real power and authority. They instantly make the viewer recall their own initial "crushes" while spilling secrets and hidden agendas that few ever see the first time out. While none of this is particularly new or novel, there is a shocking level of candor and insight offered here -- and what makes it more stunning is the screenwriting duo giving voice to such warmth and witticism. With their only other credit being the abysmal Pink Panther 2, Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber show that there is much more to their big screen acumen than lame slapstick and failed farce.
Indeed, within the peculiar patchwork approach is a great deal of laughter -- and loss. (500) Days of Summer never looks for the easy way out. Even in its occasional flights of pure fancy, it stays solidly rooted in reality. Instead, it measures both the pleasures and the pains of relationships in small, significant swatches. There is a melancholy here, a sense of lost opportunities and misplaced emotions. Sure, the movie countermands the hurt with lots and lots of laughs, but at its core, (500) Days of Summer is not really a RomCom -- it's more of a RomFact.