Movie review: Zooey Deschanel in (500) Days of Summer

Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is your average 20-something fumbling through life. Though he studied to be an architect, he has instead landed a job writing greeting cards for a small company in Los Angeles. One day, Tom takes note of the boss’ new assistant Summer (Zooey Deschanel). Who is the cute girl with the distant look in her eye? After an elevator encounter where Summer picks out a Smiths song drifting from Tom’s headphones, followed by one night of drunken karaoke, the poor guy falls head-over-heels in love.

And then the relationship is over and Tom is a broken shell of a man. One of the hooks of (500) Days of Summer is a non-linear structure that jumps around in time as Tom attempts to figure out what went wrong with his relationship. If you ever wondered what the rom-com version of Lost would look like, this is it. One minute Tom is engaged in a post-coital celebration dance through a park (complete with backup dancers and animated birds), the next he’s living a disheveled existence, sleeping all day and subsisting on a diet of Twinkies and Jack.

The poor sap is boggled by the breakup, primarily because he and Summer seem so obviously compatible. They like the same music, and spend long dates looking for life’s answers at record stores, the movies or the kitchen section of Ikea. Unfortunately, they also have wildly divergent worldviews. Tom is a big believer in “the one,” that singular soul that completes each and every one of us; Summer is a loner who never got over her parent’s divorce and doesn’t attach easily. About the only thing Summer knows for sure is that she’ll never, ever get married. It takes months of dating to get her to even admit she’s in a relationship.

It’s a credit to the actors that all of this comes off as especially true to life. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is probably best known as the kid from Third Rock From The Sun, but he’s all grown up here and makes a convincing leading man. The actor plays Tom as a smart young man twisted up by love and trying to make a few of life’s tough decisions all at once. As the inscrutable object of Tom’s affection, Zooey Deschanel has an amazing ability to cast a vacant look and make it seem intriguing. And yes, I mean that as a compliment.

The supporting cast is strong as well, with Geoffrey Arend and Matthew Gray Gubler ably playing Tom’s guy friends, and Chloe Moretz (from ABC’s short-lived Dirty Sexy Money) as Tom’s young sister who also happens to have all of life’s answers. All three actors look more like real people than Hollywood stars, and that gives the film a realism it would have lacked with overly pretty people in the roles. In the end, Tom’s soul searching goes on for a bit too long (wouldn’t 400 days of Summer have been equally effective?), but by the time the seasons finally change you’re likely to be plenty enchanted.

For more reviews of the summer's biggest movies, be sure and visit CL's Movies & Television site.

Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy gets girl back. It’s a formula as old as drama, but it’s also sort of fanciful. In real life, the boy who loses the girl often sits brooding on the sidelines for months while his lost love lives it up with a new paramour. Enter (500) Days Of Summer, a movie that wants you to know up front that it’s not some silly love story. Instead, Summer is a movie about love and all its messy fallout — hurt feelings, confusion, resentment, etc. The film is also an assured directorial debut from music video director Marc Webb, and he gives his tale a clever structure and playful visual style that helps separate it from the standard rom-com pack.

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