Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel. Rated PG. Opens Friday, July 24, at the Fifth Avenue Cinemas
Style trumps substance in (500) Days of Summer, and that’s okay almost all the way through this complicated dissection of a romance that’s not a comedy to the people involved but is pretty funny to us.
Watch the trailer for (500) Days of Summer.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, here taking on a Heath Ledger vibe after years of toiling undercover in art movies, plays Tom, a failed architect who writes bad aphorisms for an L.A. greeting-card company. Thoughts may count but actions are better, as Tom discovers when fatally cute Summer (Zooey Deschanel) comes to work there, although she leaves by day 488 of their time together—which is actually where the movie begins.
The chronology then jumps around like numbers on a roulette wheel, in patterns understood only by director Marc Webb—a former music-video maker, as is apparent by the many over-the-top set pieces and cinematic parodies that alternate with the straight, sometimes sad, scenes of not-quite-requited love. The script from Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber drifts self-consciously into Wes Anderson territory, especially when intoned by (uncredited) narrator Leslie Nielson, but the language is sharp and the images even sharper, thanks to Juno cinematographer Eric Steelberg.
The deft scene-setting (and -cutting) is supported by a super-hip soundtrack—the coworkers bond over an old Smiths tune—so it’s too bad the male lead is saddled with sitcom-level friends and a precocious kid sister (Chloe Moretz) who, frankly, I couldn’t quite understand. Also obscure is any inner life that Summer might possess, although Deschanel’s funky charm compensates, especially as the tale focuses on Tom’s anguished attempts at figuring out where he’s at—even when things seem to be going right. We’ve all been there, and now there’s a movie to help us misremember it.