After the heartache of watching The Proposal and The Ugly Truth in quick succession recently, I was ready to spurn romcoms for good, but then (500) Days of Summer came along to make me fall in love with the genre all over again.
How did the movie seduce me? Initially, it was by playing hard to get. “This is not a love story,” asserts the droll voice-over narration that introduces the movie, letting me know from the start that this was going to be the tale of break up rather than happier ever after.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Tom, a would-be architect turned writer of sappy greetings cards, and Zooey Deschanel is the eponymous Summer, the kooky workmate he falls for. The pair bond over their shared love of The Smiths but then discover a fundamental incompatibility: he believes in love, she thinks it’s a fantasy, a delusion created by greetings cards, pop songs and, yes, films.
That’s telling it straight, girl! And what could be a cleverer way of getting the hooks into me even deeper? After all, what is more of a come-on than a pose of worldly-wise cynicism?
We’re superior to the usual romantic comedy slush is what (500) Days of Summer was telling me, yet I knew that this sardonic air disguised the throb of a sincere heart.
And so it proved as the movie runs through Tom and Summer’s dizzy courtship and all the stages of their relationship, from rapturous first days all the way to painful separation – only not in that order. Director Marc Webb and screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H Weber don’t do anything so prosaic as tell the story chronologically. Instead, their film hops randomly from day to day, as if the highlights of Tom and Summer’s affair have been put on shuffle play.
The cleverness doesn’t stop there. Weber and co pull off a number of nifty stylistic flourishes. They film Tom in the first flush of love as he saunters joyfully through an LA park as if he were in a Hollywood musical, showing him high-fiveing strangers and dancing with bystanders, all to the strains of the cheesy Hall and Oates’ song ‘You Make My Dreams Come True’. When Tom and Summer’s relationship turns sour we get a flurry of brief black-and-white pastiches of gloomy European art-house films to express his sorrow. And a later scene, when Tom is hoping to get back with Summer, plays out in split screen, with one side showing Expectations and the other Reality.
Sardonic, quirky, clever: these filmmakers really know the way to my heart. Hold on, you object. You think I’ve been going to fast. You reckon I’m too easy; I’ve been viewing the film through rose-tinted spectacles; you suspect this is only a passing crush. You may be right. (500) Days of Summer is cute, certainly, but it isn’t the new When Harry Met Sally…. or Annie Hall. I don’t care. I was on the rebound after failed flings with Sandra and Katherine, so what if I fell too hard.
On general release from 2nd September.
To activate the sound in the trailer: hold your cursor over the screen to reveal the control panel and click on the volume control in the bottom right-hand corner.