If you’re the kind of person who relishes doing sounding board duty for luckless-in-love friends who can’t stop sulking and whining about their romantic misfortunes, there is a movie out there just for you. A full length feature pity party whose monotony is shrewdly sidestepped by a contrived narrative conceit which chops up the story into a tossed chronological salad, 500 Days Of Summer also narrowly avoids sending audiences into a similar funk as the self-indulgent protagonist, with a little applied role reversal mischief. That is, by setting up the female instead this time around, as the ‘dude’ heartbreaker in charge of the relationship, such as it is.
Whimsical in the extreme and nearly as elusive in intent as the designated female emotional tease in question, 500 Days Of Summer stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Tom, a shy greeting card message hack who’d rather be an architect. When new clerical employee Summer (Zooey Deschanel) shows up, Tom is clearly more interested than in just the way she happens to handle the copy machine.
And when Summer picks up on those signals, she makes flirty moves on the sensitive greeting card bard, but not without setting up strict 5 to 9 after hours ground rules. Which include contractual clauses for furniture store trysts and innovative shower sex, but with an insistent mutual understanding that they’re nothing more than friends. And Tom readily signs on the imaginary dotted line consenting to her every demand, while in extreme denial as to the opposite, of what his heart is feeling secretly.
First time director Marc Webb has his own flirtation issues, as he teases audiences with his unconventional hide-and-seek uncommitted lovebird chronicle that mirrors the erratic but premeditated time frames set in motion. But it’s Deschanel who is saddled with the most challenging burden here, as a clerical femme fatale who’s got to maintain at least a minimal facade of confusion and charm in order not to be thoroughly unlikable, and while also casually dumping her gloomy boy toy prey over a plate of pancakes.
500 Days Of Summer is for sure a novelty approach to the romantic comedy, along with the ups and downs of love and far from necessarily in that order. Which is fortunate for this movie, because minus those imaginative surprises in store, it might have simply come off as one of those lame greeting cards without them.
Fox Searchlight Pictures
2 1/2 stars