Saturday, July 25, 2009

Review: (500) Days of Summer a Cute-Enough Hipster Love Story

Review in a Hurry: The guy (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) believes in love while the gal (Zooey Deschanel) does not. An unseen narrator informs us "you should know upfront, this isn't a love story." Hmm, we'll be the judge of that.

The Bigger Picture: An audience favorite at this year's Sundance, the debut feature from director Marc Webb offers Tom (Gordon-Levitt) and Summer (Deschanel) as a couple of 21st century hipsters who make cute for a while and then break up. The days unfold randomly with numeric title cards announcing their progress like a relationship odometer. He's from Jersey, and she had a cat named Bruce. So at the very least there's a Springsteen connection.

Gordon-Levitt has attracted attention from films like Brick and The Lookout. With 500, he may have found the right role for his brand of passionate but downplayed reserve. While the camera clearly loves her, Deschanel plays yet another variation on her character from indie fave All The Real Girls. This makes Summer a rather impenetrable force, and after a while you might wonder what Tom finds so compelling about this ingénue. A '50s hairdo can only get you so far, after all.

Much of the script by Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber is concerned with the sign-post-like connections between like-minded individuals (he sports a Joy Division T; she loves the Smiths.) Early on, Tom and Summer are shopping at Ikea and Tom makes a joke about the faucet not working in the faux kitchen. Summer ain't having it. Flashback a few months ago and the same gag makes her smile. Perhaps her mood has changed, or maybe Tom just shouldn't count on things staying the same.

Although the central premise is a tad overdone, there are many (but sadly not 500) things that go right. The story takes place in Los Angeles. It's not the La-La Land of the Westside-centric Entourage, but rather downtown L.A. This gorgeous part of the city is where our young, attractive twentysomethings actually use public transportation. Levitt's character is an aspiring architect, so cinematographer Eric Steelberg (Juno) makes the L.A. cityscape feel like a sunnier version of Manhattan's Mad Men.

The banter can be a bit self-conscious, but it's hard not to find most of it charming—like Tom's retort to Summer's declaration she does not believe in true love, "Um, it's love not Santa Claus."

The 180—a Second Opinion: If you're looking for something that's not cracking wise like Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynold's The Proposal, this might be a nice way to avoid a hot summer day. Just expect to fall in like, not love with this story.


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