Combustible Celluloid
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With: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel, Geoffrey Arend, Chloe Moretz, Matthew Gray Gubler, Clark Gregg, Patricia Belcher, Rachel Boston, Minka Kelly, Ian Reed Kesler, Darryl Alan Reed, Valente Rodriguez, Yvette Nicole Brown, Nicole Vicius, Natalie Boren
Written by: Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber
Directed by: Marc Webb
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual material and language
Running Time: 95
Date: 01/17/2009

(500) Days of Summer (2009)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Please Let Me Get What I Want

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

500 Days of Summer isn't exactly a romantic comedy; it has nothing to do with an uptight character falling in love with a carefree character and then the two fixing each other. It's more like an honest-to-goodness relationship, with ecstatic high points, soul-crushing low points, general uncertainty and emotional torment. But co-writers Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber and director Marc Webb keep the entire enterprise going with little bits of hope and tiny, happy, funny rewards, such as animated sequences or a dance number set to Hall & Oates' "You Make My Dreams."

The "Summer" of the title refers to Summer (Zooey Deschanel), an enchanting, blue-eyed creature who comes to work in a greeting card company, where writer Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is already employed. He falls for her, believing that she is "the one," and she seems to like him back; she kisses him, sleeps with him, tells him secrets, but at the same time keeps him at a distance. She's not looking for anything serious and refuses to put a "boyfriend/girlfriend" label on their friendship. Tom can hang with this for only so long and then the uncertainty gets to him, and things start to fall apart.

Happily, the film uses the "500 days" idea wisely, jumping back and forth in time and labeling each scene by the day number in this relationship. Numbers that come in before, say, 200 are relatively happy, but as we get past 400, Tom spends a lot of time laying around his apartment, eating Twinkies and drinking booze. The movie falls back on a few conventions, such as a couple of "best friend" characters for Tom; his love life seems to be their one and only concern. And then we get the backstory that Tom actually wants to be an architect, and will no doubt eventually, predictably, improve himself by following that dream.

As is a requirement these days, the film also has a superb, music-geek soundtrack, including key songs by the Smiths, the Doves and Feist (and, thankfully, Deschanel also gets to sing once, in a karaoke bar). This wonderful film seems ready to tap into a moment in time, like a new generation's Love Story.

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