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"(500) DAYS OF SUMMER"
(2009) (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel) (PG-13)

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QUICK TAKE:
Romantic Comedy: A young man hopes to change a young woman's mind about their status (despite her earlier proclamation that she's not looking for a serious relationship) after they start seeing each other and he falls for her.
PLOT:
Tom Hansen (JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT) is a young man living in Los Angeles who dreams of being an architect, but makes a living writing text for greeting cards. Things look up when he eyes Summer Finn (ZOOEY DESCHANEL), the new assistant to his boss, Mr. Vance (CLARK GREGG). The two get to know each other and start dating, but despite her proclamation that she doesn't believe in love and thus isn't interested in a serious relationship, he starts to fall for her.

As the story jumps back and forth through the 500 days of their relationship, Tom repeatedly alternates between elation and despair depending on the temporal location, sharing his varied range of emotions not only with his friends, McKenzie (GEOFFREY AREND) and Paul (MATTHEW GRAY GUBLER), but also his younger sister, Rachel (CHLOE GRACE MORETZ), who seems wise beyond her years about matters of the heart.

OUR TAKE: 7.5 out of 10
For most Americans, summer begins on Memorial Day and then wraps up the season at the end of the Labor Day weekend, a point reinforced in some parts by outdoor pool operations following the same schedule. In reality, meteorological summer runs from the summer solstice to the vernal equinox, roughly the same number of days filled with similar amounts of sunshine, sultry nights, storms and the eventual fading of daylight and healthy plant life.

But if someone mentioned 500 days of summer, you might just see that as unconventional thinking or perhaps that they're suffering from sunstroke. If the latter's the case, they should immediately head off to the nearest cool and dark movie theater to see "(500) Days of Summer," the unexpected, delightful and completely charming surprise of the summer of 2009 for adult viewers looking for something a little different.

For not only is the title decidedly unconventional, but so is the way it handles the trappings of one such genre that always tries my patience, the romantic comedy. I know, there are people who love the predictable formula, what with its "meet cute" introduction, the budding and building romance, the faux breakup, the musical montages and the whacky sidekick characters.

I'm not one of them, and that's what makes this flick -- from first-time director Marc Webb and writers Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber (who, say it isn't so, also somehow penned "The Pink Panther 2") -- so perfect for me, especially since it tells you from the get-go that it's not a love story, but rather a boy meets girl one. Even so and despite the shake-up of the formula, I'm guessing the regular romantic comedy crowd will likely end up smitten as well.

Aspiring architect turned greeting card writer Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is one of those people who loves summer, but with a capital S as in a young woman's first name. As portrayed by Zooey Deschanel and described by occasional, baritone narrator Jean-Paul Vignon, who wouldn't love her as she's cute, fun, funny and has that hard to pin down but obvious to spot "it" factor going for her.

And she seems to like Tom. But, and it's "Bertha Butt" big, she doesn't love him. In fact, she doesn't believe in love and thus has no desire to get into any sort of serious relationship. But the fact that she's fun, outgoing and just so happens to bed Tom on a casual basis has clouded his perception of matters. In fact, he's fallen head over cupid-tripped-me-by-the heels in love with her. And therein lies the rub, if you will, of this offering that breaks the genre mold, but doesn't labor in doing so and never belittles those who favor the same old, same old.

Since we know from the get-go that the romance between the two ultimately doesn't work, some viewers may worry that the film is going to be a downer. Others might be concerned it's going to follow the usual rewind formula of showing us a teaser of the present, and then rewind and play out up to and just beyond that starting point.

Thankfully, neither is true. Beyond the terrific dialogue and perfect performances by the leads, what makes the film work so well is its fairly unusual plot course. While not the first flick to jump around through time, this one has fun as it flits from one of the 500 days in the relationship to another point and then elsewhere again just as quickly.

I'll admit I didn't pay that close of attention as to discern if there's actually a master thematic plan at play in terms of what does show up when and represents what, but the hopscotch approach through the relationship is one of the filmmakers' brilliant touches. It certainly keeps the viewer off balance during the highs, lows and mundane romantic middles that most everyone has experienced at one or more points in their lives. And that's what also helps engage the viewer, as it's a look back (from the love-blinded male perspective) at trying to figure out what went wrong, where and why, all peppered with memories of the good times.

From the title cards (indicating what day we're seeing) to the whimsically informative narrator, some fun impromptu moments and the entertaining and cute performances, the film exudes the same sort of light and charming aura that permeated similar parts of the equally delightful "Amelie." While viewer reaction will likely vary, I carried that warm and fuzzy feel good vibe with me out of the theater, a clear indicator of the sheer entertainment value at play and what positive word of mouth will likely do for this offering.

Yet, the film also gets some depth from its poignant moments and even some pathos in terms of a love that is never intended to be. In such regards, some might view some or even all of it as sad to some degree, but its upbeat moments clearly outweigh and outshine any downer ones, meaning this should become something of an audience favorite.

And that's especially true considering the stellar performances by Gordon-Levitt -- who continues to further himself in increasingly exemplary ways from his old "3rd Rock" days -- and Deschanel (who can do no wrong in my book) who imbues her role with enough fine touches to make her title character stand out from the crowd of so many other romantic comedy leading ladies.

You'll likely fall in love with her just as easily as Tom and have your heart broken just like him, but that likely won't stop you from being smitten with, enamored by or head over heels in love with "(500) Days of Summer." This winning, charming, imaginatively constructed and delightfully played film will make you wish it could stay summer all year long and thus rates as a 7.5 out of 10.




Reviewed June 29, 2009 / Posted July 17, 2009


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