Review: (500) Days of Summer
If the new film "(500) Days of Summer" were a chocolate from one of those Pot of Gold-type boxes, it would be a perfectly-sized, succulent little nougat-covered cruncher, but one in which you'd find surprising tartness.
This anti-romantic-comedy, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel, has a lot to say about fate, faith, love and the idea of love, and refuses to resort to cheap tricks to say it. Nor does "(500) Days" wrap tidy little bows on everything so we can go home and ignore the questions it suggests we ask ourselves. That's a good thing.
Our hero, Tom Hansen, is a greeting card writer trained as an architect (so, frustrated and pretty bored with his job) who is smitten when a girl named Summer Finn joins the firm as his boss's assistant. After some delays, often played for laughs, they find out they share a love of the Smiths - and that's when their 500 days begin.
Don't expect a linear storyline. We jump to day 488 and back to day 5, then to 221, 222 and 43. It sounds incredibly distracting, but it isn't. It's fun. And it's effective because it allows you (and director Marc Webb) to focus on certain themes collectively, rather than revisiting them several times over the course of the film. The effect is both powerful and clarifying.
Webb's direction is inspired too. He shifts between many styles and uses black and white for comedic effect. Sometimes scenes blend into gorgeous, arty stills that, if we're paying attention, give us some insight about what the characters are going through or thinking about at the time.
It's a rather beautiful movie, tragic and funny and, believe it or not, very romantic. Casting Zooey Deschanel was clever, because her past roles might lead you to assume that there isn't much more to Summer than what meets the eye. She has played her share of breezy, free-spirits. This gives her the wiggle-room she needs to keep the audience on its toes.
Speaking of toes, this film also contains my favorite scene so far of 2009. It involves a dance sequence, Hall & Oates and a generous amount of glee - but I don't want to spoil it for you. You'll want to see that yourself.
The supporting players, mainly Tom's friends and sister, bring a lot to our enjoyment of this film, letting us into Tom's struggles and making us laugh about all the pain and pleasure they bring.
I'm sure there's a lot of Tom in all of us. Whether that's a good thing is something I believe "(500) Days of Summer" is asking us to decide.
**** stars (out of five)