Tom (Gordon Levitt) falls in love with Summer (Deschanel) but things don't go quite according to the romantic dream he has in mind.
(500) Days Of Summer is the cinematic equivalent of a song. If you want to get specific, it’s the cinematic equivalent of a Belle And Sebastian song: self-consciously quirky, certainly, but wry, winning and full of irresistible hooks.
What (500) Days feels like is a compilation of conversations and bits that would fall through the gaps in a traditional rom-com. Eschewing meet-cutes (this couple meet boringly at work) and last-gasp dashes to the airport, it is a film about the thrill of realising the girl you fancy loves the same band (in this case, The Smiths), the joy of making trips to Ikea magical adventures or the hollowness of going out on dates when you’re still pining for your ex. Yet, like a warm ’n’ fuzzy Memento, it scoots through these moments in a fizzy, random discontinuity, butting the good times against the painful memories, gaining emotional mileage as each informs the other.
Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber’s sparky, ingeniously structured screenplay is given maximum pizzazz by pop promo director Webb, throwing in a joyous dance number to celebrate Tom’s (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) first night with Summer (Zooey Deschanel) or a clever splitscreen to show the expectation vs. the reality when Tom tries to woo Summer back. Not all of it works — an omniscient narrator is introduced then forgotten about, Tom has a wise-acre kid sister (Chloë Moretz) doing the Wisdom Beyond Her Years thing — but there is so much beguiling playfulness that, if something falls flat, there is always a great Han Solo gag or Fellini parody just around the corner.
Standing up for the foolishly romantic, the charming Gordon-Levitt registers every ounce of hope, joy and angst beneath his geeky demeanour. In the guardedly romantic camp, Deschanel has done the enigmatic space cadet before — see Yes Man and Gigantic — but gives it a melancholy twist.
It is, perhaps, ultimately too smart-aleck to have real emotional wallop. You wish that the film would give Summer the same TLC it lavishes on Tom, and the film has a last-gasp gag that feels pat at the end of something that previously felt something like love itself: gloriously unpredictable, effortlessly fresh and, at its best, leaves you high as a kite.
Perfectly played, simultaneously serious and light, endlessly inventive, this is a strong contender for the most original date movie of the year. (Terrific) stuff.