(*homocinematically inclined)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Reel Thoughts: Summer Lovin'

In a marketplace flooded with silly, predictable and mostly Katherine Heigl-starring romantic comedies, (500) Days of Summer is like a breath of fresh air. Make that, like a blast of 115-degree air when you walk out of an air-conditioned theater.

Following in the footsteps of such punny-titled films as Poetic Justice (Janet Jackson was Justice, who wrote poetry), Gray Matters (Heather Graham played Gray, who … mattered), and Beethoven’s 2nd (Beethoven was a dog, and the film was a big No. 2), (500) Days of Summer tells the literal story of greeting card writer Tom Hansen’s (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) 500 days with his co-worker/object of love Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel).

Outfitted with a narrator like the late, lamented Pushing Daisies, director Marc Webb warns us that this is not a love story. Oh, Tom loves Summer alright, but Summer is one of those infuriating objects of desire that we’ve all had who “just hasn’t found the right man yet” to make her believe in love.

As a slot machine of a ticker spins back and forth to specific days (one through 500 of course), we learn how Tom, the na├»ve dreamer, could fall under the spell of a person so clearly not in it for the long haul. They meet cutely at work, hit it off, and start playing “relationship” – even running through an Ikea to test out their kitchen, living room and bedroom. Click forward to a day in the 200s and Summer won’t even let Tom hold her hand.

Webb directs lovely work from Gordon-Levitt and Deschanel, and even though the film feels a little contrived, it really nails this particular level of romantic hell; being with a gorgeous person you just can’t have (despite their lead-ons to the contrary). I never much cared for Gordon-Levitt as a child actor, cheering when he got an ice skate to the head in that Halloween sequel. But he is such an interesting performer now, I’m excited to see what’s next. Deschanel is just gorgeous, so what’s not to love about her?

It’s bracing and invigorating yet not that unexpected, since you’ve been through it before. Yet, as a fun counterpoint to what’s out there, I think you’ll be glad to experience these (500) Days of Summer.

UPDATE: (500) Days of Summer is now available on DVD and Blu-rayfrom

Review by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.

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