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Cool as a melty Creamsicle on a hot summer day, the new comedy (500) Days of Summer is a sweet surprise in the middle of blockbuster season.  A welcome respite in a field so recently dominated by borderline frathouse laughs; (500) Days of Summer is a return to the canny wit and urbane hipness sorely missed in the works of Cameron Crowe, director of 1992ís Singles.  A standout performance by Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the boy in this story of boy meets girl, boy gets girlÖ kinda, boy loses girl and frantically tries to get her back, is as starmaking and memorable as John Cusack in Croweís 1989 opus, Say Anything.

The (500) Days of the title refers to the length of the relationship between Tom and Summer, a blithe spirit that breezes into his sedate life.  As new coworkers at a greeting card company, Tom does the hesitant office romance dance, but only until Summer seizes Tom in a passionate liplock in the copy room.

Sharp and elegant without ever becoming twee or precious, (500) Days of Summer is a rare and insightful portrait of modern love.  The role reversal between Summer and Tom is beautifully measured and explained in an early flashback to their last day as a couple wherein Summer enlightens a surprised Tom that in their increasingly Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen relationship, sheís the Sid.  Summer is a girl with the world ahead of her and no need to be tied down.  This is in complete opposite to Tom, who, as their blissful relationship blooms and heís never been happier, craves the security of knowing that it, and Summer are never going away.

Director Marc Webb doesnít simply employ a fresh, brilliant script; he freely tosses in wonderful animation sequences, side-eyed disclaimers, a voice-over narration and the odd musical production number.  More perhaps than even in Croweís comedies, the soundtrack of (500) Days of Summer is as vital as any of the supporting characters:  Tomís adult viewpoint is formed by the 1980ís British mope rock he worshipped as a teen.  What finally convinces Tom to pursue Summer is her office elevator sing-along to The Smithsí "There is a Light That Never Goes Out" leaking out from Tomís Ipod headphones.  Tomís impromptu victory dance through the city streets after spending the night with the fair Summer is a loopy delight as passersby join him for some spontaneous choreography to the tune of Hall and Oatesí ďYou Make My Dreams Come True.Ē

Of all (500) Days of Summerís estimable charms, the greatest of these is its excellent casting.  Joseph Gordon-Levittís career has been puttering along nicely as heís made the transition from child television star on the sitcom Third Rock from the Sun to legitimate feature film star.  Heís quietly gained both chops and acting cred in smaller films like 2004ís Mysterious Skin, 2005ís Brick and 2008ís Stop-Loss {Reviewed here}(- and 1998ís Halloween H2O!).  Heís paid his dues and itís great to see him shine as brightly as he does here as a romantic lead.  Gordon-Levitt masterfully brings Tom to life as a dreamy everyman with the heartfelt appeal of Say Anythingís Lloyd Dobler.  The character is so endearing in both the exultant joy of the first blush of love, or the crushing dejection of realising that no matter how well a relationship seems to be going, thereís always one who loves a little more and sometimes that disparity simply canít be breached.  Tom is the boy every girl wishes lived next door, so itís hard to imagine what female in her right mind wouldnít adore him?  This is where the other perfect casting comes in; Zooey Deschanelís quirky, ethereal allure is used here to its best effect.  Dressed immaculately like a porcelain doll stuck in a 1950ís/1960ís time warp, Deschanelís natural wispiness is a fine canvas for Tom to paint his aspirations on, and only after the reality of how free Summerís spirit intends to be crashes in, do things take a hard turn south.  Deschanelís agile performance makes it impossible to hate Tomís enigmatic muse/dream girl/amour fou.  Summer simply is what she is and never pretends to be other, even for Tomís sake.  One of the gifts of the screenplay is that we see the idealised version of the relationship mostly through the heartbroken Tomís eyes and later a slightly different, more realistic account afforded by Tomís wise-way-beyondĖher-years tweenaged sister (- played by the brilliantly deadpan ChloŽ Grace Moritz), who saw the imbalance between the two from the start.  Dramatically hitting bottom after Summerís departure, Tom is able to salvage one good thing from their time together; heeding the words of career advice she gave back before they became a couple.  Having to rebuild from the inside out, Tom learns how to move on again.

Lovely stuff.  I havenít watched a movie with this much unadulterated charm in ages.  Touched with just the right amounts of wit, whimsy and smarts, (500) Days of Summer is a pure delight and one of the most engaging romantic comedies in years.

 

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva

July 16th, 2009

 

 

 

 

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Photos

(Courtesy of  Fox Searchlight Pictures)

 

 

 

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