(500) Days of Summer

(500) Days of Summer featured image

reviewed by Marc Glassman

(500) Days of Summer.

Marc Webb, director. Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber, script. Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Tom Hanson), Zooey Deschanel (Summer Finn), Chloe Moretz (Rachel),
Matthew Gray Gubler (Paul), Jennifer Hetrick (Sarah), Clark Gregg (Vance)

A romantic comedy starring two B-list actors, directed by a first time filmmaker with a background in music videos and scripted by the duo that wrote Pink Panther 2 would seem to be a recipe for disaster. Guess again. (500) Days of Summer is a sweet tempered rendition of the power and perils of young love, filled with comedy and despair.

The (500) in the title—and, yes, it’s rendered in parentheses—refers to the number of days Tom Hanson, a greeting card writer, is in love with Summer Finn, who works as his boss’ assistant. Employing a counter as the main structural device, the film moves effortlessly from a day in the middle of Tom and Summer’s affair—say, number 200—back to awkward but moving number 8, when they’re making small talk in the office to number 330, when their quarrels are getting stronger. It allows the audience to view the romance at a distance and forces viewers to make up the gaps as the story unfolds—or goes backwards.

The technique would have gone over well in the Sixties, particularly in a French New Wave film. Appropriately, Zooey Deschanel, with her elfin look and quirky manner, gives a performance as Summer that is fully in keeping with that tradition. Less satisfying is Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Tom; he is a fine actor but lacks the presence to star in a film, even an indie like this one. Still, they’re certainly good enough to take us on this romantic ride.

And there’s one great scene. Around Day 30, Summer finally allows the affair to happen. The next morning Tom wakes up, dresses, goes outside, grinning ear to ear. He starts shouting hello, then high-fives, and eventually sings and dances with a crowd of people in a city square. It’s a startlingly effective moment of high fantasy in a film that is gently realistic. Obviously, Marc Webb’s music video experience stood him well in creating that sequence.

(500) Days of Summer is that rarity, a charming date movie. It should be one of the sleeper hits of the season.

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