Sunday, 18 October 2009

500 Days of Summer

Boy meets girl…Boy loves girl…Girl doesn’t love boy? That’s the deft premise of new indie 500 Days of Summer, one that flirts with the soppy romcom theatrics before lacing the romance with the bitterness of a broken heart.

Joseph Gordon Levitt (whose star has been on a gradual ascent since Third Rock from the Sun ended) is wannabe LA architect Tom whose career aspirations haven’t amounted to much apart from a job as a greetings card designer. He has oddball friends; loves Britpop; and gets drunk at karaoke, therefore filling the marks as a loveable clutz.

Levitt’s immensely likeable performance finds hidden depths when a new employee, Summer (Zooey Deschanel) wafts into the office like a fragrant breeze. Pretty soon Tom is in love, has made contact and encountered the first date…

Except director Marc Webb’s clever handling of the story isn’t as staid as all that, beginning instead en-media-res at Day 400 and something, where the despairing Tom can’t understand how his apparently solid relationship with Summer has foundered. It then proceeds to zip back and forward through their romance with effortless ease, picking out everything from the tentative beginnings, the initial uncertainties and the confidence of young love at its peak.

What we therefore get is a witty, funny and endearing tapestry of love in all its frustrating forms. Webb refuses to let his film fall into bitty self-contained pieces (as it could easily have done) but charts an emotional rollercoaster, where the pithy humour and warmth of Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber’s screenplay (‘Nobody loves Ringo Starr!’) sits comfortably alongside genuine pathos and heartbreak a few scenes later.

Timelines are disjointed; animation blends with real life; and LA is painted (improbably) as a glowing city of opportunity, all of which may scream smugness to some. Smug it can be: one major concession to other comedies of this ilk is the inclusion of the impossibly wise little sister dishing out relationship advice.

However the core performances are always ready to guide it back to Earth, be it Levitt as the nice guy doomed to failure for not thinking outside of love’s box or Deschanel as the eponymous Summer, luminous and refusing to demonise (or let be demonised) her character’s inscrutable free spirit. A biting pre-credit caption may indicate though that either the director or screenwriters have taken this sort of thing personally…Still, if music be the food of love and all that?

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