Calling (500) Days Of Summer a by-numbers romcom isn’t the damning indictment it normally would be, because numbers are our main guide through the damaged romance of greeting-card writer Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and free spirit Summer (Zooey Deschanel). The film lits about its 500-day timeframe with almost random abandon, dropping in on, say, Day 290, then skitting off to 13, hanging at each digit for brief snippets of bitter/sweet incident or lengthier relationship milestones.
It’s the device that gives this indie its crafty hook. But while it might seem a tacit admission that (500) Days wouldn’t be half as interesting if it played out sequentially, nothing could be further from the truth, thanks to the creativity of first-timer Marc Webb’s direction and Scott Neustadter and Michael H Weber’s script.
When was the last time you watched a film where it was the girl being all “meh” about the guy? Capricious, floaty, enigmatic Summer doesn’t believe in love; sensitive, befuddled Tom convinces himself she’s the girl of his dreams. His adulation of The Smiths initially attracts her and they lurch into an awkward courtship heavy on Ikea visits, shower sex and pop music both cool and naff (Hall & Oates’ ‘You Make My Dreams Come True’ soundtracks one of several droll fantasy detours).
Some of the quirkiness misses the mark (Tom’s 12-year-old sister doling out ludicrously precocious advice). But mostly Daysoffers astute, funny insight into the confusion rife in love and infatuation. Gordon-Levitt anchors the film with an emotionally candid turn, while clichéd situations (i.e. the big break-up) are passed over in favour of more subtly revealing moments. And surely any film that has you wanting to download ‘She’s Like The Wind’ off iTunes is touched by something special.
Gordon-Levitt soars and Deschanel charms in a playful, witty, disordered telling of a fractured romance. Bringing fresh zing to a genre prone to predictability, Webb crafts a (not-in-) love story about feeling bad that’s infectiously good.