(500) Days of Summer is a fresh comedy that defies categorization. It’s not a rom-com exactly because it doesn’t fit into that formula of boy and girl hating each other until they realize they don’t. The titular Summer (Zooey Deschanel) and greeting-card writer Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) get along right away. He falls in love with her at first sight upon meeting at work (she’s his boss’s assistant). She likes him a lot, too, but as a friend with benefits since she doesn’t believe in commitment at her age, something she tells Tom upfront.
The movie zigzags in non-linear fashion through the different stages of their relationship, showing how something can be cute and funny on day 40 but annoying on day 400. It’s a clear-eyed anatomy of a courtship, not quite a love story but not without romantic notions about soulmates and fate. And no matter what day it’s on, the relationship is engaging because of the chemistry between Gordon-Levitt and Deschanel.
We’ve seen Deschanel do the quirky thing before but her aloofness is perfect for Summer. She also gets to show off her lovely singing voice a little. And who knew the little kid from 3rd Rock from the Sun would grow up to be such a handsome, charismatic leading man? I’ve seen his impressive work in The Lookout and Brick but he was still playing awkward, on-the-cusp-of-adulthood characters then. Here, he’s full-grown and full-blown movie star.
One of the things I like most about Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber’s mold-breaking script is how every character is funny but in a distinctive way. Tom’s friends, McKenzie (Geoffrey Arend) and Paul (Matthew Gray Gubler), his boss Vance (Clark Gregg) and his sister Rachel (Chloe Moretz) all have moments of hilarity while staying in sync with who they are. This is different from a movie like Juno, which bugged me with all the characters, from parents to teens, speaking in the same hip dialogue.
Credit must also be given to first-time feature director Marc Webb for adroitly bringing this script to screen without destroying its originality. Cinematographer Eric Steelberg reminds me that L.A. can be romantic when viewed through a certain perspective. The soundtrack, which includes tunes from the Smiths and Regina Spektor, will make you feel cool whether you’re falling in love for the first time or not.
Nerd verdict: Memorable Days of Summer