After months of noisy, big-budget disappointments, it seems fitting the most entertaining movie of the summer so far would be a quiet indie drama-dy. At the very beginning of “(500) Days of Summer,” a narrator proclaims that: “This is NOT a love story.”
Instead it documents the dizzying ups and downs in the relationship between Tom Hanson (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel) from the moment they first meet, through his eventual broken heart. It even covers the post- heartbreak healing process.
The film’s story hops freely around in this timeline— the 500 days that the title speaks of— showing the good times and the bad, sometimes in order and other times, not so much.
Never fear though, the narrative structure, despite sounding a bit confusing, is actually very easy to follow.
Animated title cards inform the viewer where they are on the timeline and even whether it will be a good day or a bad one. It’s actually a pretty clever gimmick, in addition to being a useful road map.
The movie plays like a stripped-down version of the 2004 film, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” Gordon-Levitt steps into Jim Carrey’s role from that film as the lonely, sensitive guy, while Deschanel takes over Kate Winslet’s flighty, free-spirited character.
Of course, “(500) Days of Summer” lacks the mind-bending script and visuals of “Eternal Sunshine,” but while they may not be playing in the same league, the sport is the same.
Both films hit a lot of the same emotional notes, including watching two people fall in and out of love and exploring what it takes to truly put someone behind you.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a fantastic indie leading man. On top of that, he boasts the most opening weekend range of any actor ever. “(500) Days” expanded into wide release on the same day that his other summer film, a little something called “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra,” hit screens.
Talk about both ends of the film spectrum.
In any case, Gordon-Levitt portrays a likeable, if somewhat na’ve, everyman to perfection. Anyone who has ever had their heart broken— which is everyone, don’t lie— will relate to him, even when his actions may seem unreasonable.
After all, who hasn’t acted unreasonably in the face of loss? Again, this is a lie-free zone we’re in.
Zooey Deschanel is a bit of an acting enigma. In some roles she seems woefully, dreadfully miscast (“The Happening”) but in others she is pure perfection (“Elf,” “Yes Man”). The good news is that “(500) Days” falls into that latter category.
She is assigned the difficult task of juggling the duel roles of love interest and villain, personifying a fetching-love interest and a cold, soul-crusher at the same time.
Well, at least as far as Tom is concerned, that is.
As good an indie leading man as Gordon-Levitt is, Deschanel may actually be a better indie leading lady. We are even treated to some more of her lovely singing voice thanks to a karaoke scene.
The only real problem with the movie is young Chloe Moretz, who plays the type of role that Abigail Breslin has monopolized lately— the young kid who knows WAY too much about life for their age.
Now, Moretz isn’t to blame for this terribly annoying trend anymore then Breslin is; it’s the writers who deserve our wrath. Please stop creating these sagely youths, who seem to know more about life at 12 then I do now at 22.
It makes me feel badly about myself.
That’s only a minor quibble, as her character isn’t in that much of the movie, which spaces out her fits of philosophizing to a more manageable frequency.
The film’s soundtrack boasts a solid collection of indie fire power blended with classic pop tunes. The Smiths, Hall & Oates and Wolfmother are all featured prominently, while Deschanel gets to cover a classic Smith’s track for the soundtrack album with her band She & Him.
“(500) Days of Summer” doesn’t reinvent the wheel as far as indie drama-dys go, but it certainly doesn’t crash the car that the wheel is attached to either. It’s a funny and heartfelt look at relationships and how they manage to affect us all in different ways and in exactly the same ways.
Grade: 4.5/ 5