Zany visuals and spirited performances makes 500 Days of Summer an entertaining chronicle of the making and breaking of a modern secular relationship.
Although an innovative addition to the rom-com sub-genre, its opening narration (courtesy of Richard McConale) stresses the point that 500 Days of Summer is not a love story, but rather a ‘what happens’ when a hopeless romantic clashes with a free spirit.
That the film begins with Tom (Joseph-Gordon Levitt) in agony after being dumped by Summer (Zooey Deschanel) is a hint and a half as what to expect, with director Marc Webb (his feature debut) opting to present this failed romance in a series of back and forths, which to his credit does not confuse nor feel generic.
In presenting this non-love story, Webb uses every tool at his disposal, from black and white photography to split screen, and laces his film with cheeky pop culture references, including a humorous ode/spoof to European cinema.
Not to say that all of his ideas are original. The post coitus walk of celebration has been done to death, while the song and dance it inspires during a stroll in the park was executed better in last years Enchanted. But yet it still works, thanks to the energetic approach given to it.
An eccentric selection of songs plays soundtrack to the fun on screen.
Yet, the most interesting aspect of 500 Days of Summer is its role reversal of the sexes, with Tom playing the traditional female cliché in his falling head other heels and consulting with his ‘boyfriends’ over his next move.
Summer, meanwhile, plays the part previously suited to cliché male roles of the past, swatting away any attempt towards commitment, while leading poor ol’ Tom in a doomed relationship filled with thrills yet no emotional grounding, a shallowness and selfishness which has been championed as “liberating” by the feminist front.
Now, that may sound slightly misogynistic, but had the roles of Tom and Summer been reversed, then Tom would have most assuredly be viewed as a womanizing pig.
Many men, particularly of the Y and X generations, will relate to and find solace in Tom’s heartbreak. That the screenplay was written by men (Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, bouncing back admirably from Pink Panther 2), is not a surprise, nor would a revelation that Tom’s story was inspired by their real life experiences.
The casting of Gordon-Levitt and Deschanel in the lead roles is spot on. The pair match each other well in look and style, and the chemistry between the two makes the viewers pining for the pair to stay together that more palpable.
Gordon-Levitt, in particular, stamps his claim as the best non-star leading man working today, with his easy going vibe, laid back charm, and natural instinct for comedy a winning combination.