(500) Days of Summer will incur the wrath of those who hated mightily on Juno for being overwritten, self-consciously “indie,” and too clever for its own good. While there’s no hamburger phone, (500) Days of Summer is all these things, and it certainly grates at times.
Although it's being marketed as an “anti-romantic comedy,” don’t be fooled: Salo is an anti-romantic comedy; (500) Days of Summer is indeed a romantic comedy. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Tom, an aspiring architect living in LA and schlubbing as a greeting card writer when love comes along in the form of Summer (Zooey Deschanel), the new office assistant with indie bangs and a shared love of The Smiths. Problem is, he’s ready for a relationship but she wants to keep things casual. What’s a poor grup to do?
Gordon-Levitt is appealing as the lovesick, cynical Tom. He has an easygoing charisma that keeps the character’s incessant moping from becoming totally intolerable (it comes close, though) and helps carry a fun (if indulgent) “morning after” musical sequence set to Hall & Oates. As Summer, Zooey Deschanel is... well, Zooey Deschanel. She’s got the Manic Pixie Dream Girl thing nailed, which means she’ll alternately charm and annoy the hell out of you.
Indeed, Summer is a bundle of quirks (gallivants through IKEA, shouts “penis” in a crowded park, inexplicably picks Ringo Starr as her favorite Beatle) that add up to a somewhat sketchily drawn, yet ultimately rather mysterious character: she’s as inexplicable to us as she is to Tom. Admirably, however, the script never tries to explain away her commitment-phobia with a clichéd backstory nor does it merely condemn her as finicky or a “bitch.” She’s allowed to have her complications, and refreshingly so.
It’s because of this, coupled with the movie’s cynical edge, that (500) Days of Summer actually works. As with Juno, the film is neither as obnoxious nor as egregiously cloying as the haters will make it out to be. And despite its weaknesses, the film is a frequently charming rom-com, one that is certainly a cut above what audiences have come to expect from the genre. Beneath the oft-contrived dialogue and too-precious front the film puts up, it does get one thing right that all the Julia/Drew/J. Lo dreck has missed: love cuts.