(500) Ways to Be Cute
Lots of almost
by Molly Templeton
(500) DAYS OF SUMMER: Directed by Marc Webb. Written by Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber. Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt & Zooey Deschanel. Fox Searchlight, 2009. 95 minutes. PG-13.
(500) Days of Summer is just too fucking cute. The nonlinear story marks its constant shifts in time via the changing seasons in a cute little drawing of trees and a city. It’s got fantastically cute clothes for its female lead, wide-eyed Summer (Zooey Deschanel), cute moments of bonding over records and a whole scene about how Summer is so cute, she gets cheaper rent and turns heads on the bus. Summer is so cute that when she tells Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) that she’s not looking for anything serious, Tom can’t take her seriously. He believes in the one. She’s a flirt. This will end well.
Gordon-Levitt is a fine, still-under-appreciated actor who seems to throw himself into the role of Tom as if it’s his last; even his mopiest mope has a particular charm. Tom writes cheesy slogans for a greeting card company, a job one of the film’s writers clearly thought up for him because it makes for a great kiss-off speech wherein Tom decries the bullshit of producing canned greetings. Tom also has this job because he wishes he had another job, and his relationship with Summer will, naturally, be the thing to get him out of his rut.
(500) Days of Summer has a few fantastic moments — an Ikea shopping spree, a brief dance number that amusingly mirrors the joy and the absurdity of falling in love, a scene in which Tom explains how to see L.A. as a beautiful place. But mostly, it hovers nervously around the edges of a moment, a truth about modern relationships, unwilling to really get messy or honest. It’s almost a sweet movie about how a failed relationship can give you things you didn’t know you were looking for. And it almost understands that mid-to-late-20s time when you’re not doing the right thing but you’re also not totally sure what the right thing is or whether you’re even capable of it. (If this doesn’t sound familiar to you, just pretend I never said it and have always known what to do with my life, OK?) But all that almost is in Tom’s movie. Tom is a character; Summer is a catalyst, there to motivate Tom by breaking his heart. What does Summer want? What’s Summer not doing with her life? Would it be so much to ask that the dream girl be a bit more substantial?
(500) Days of Summer opens Friday, Aug. 7, at Cinemark and VRC Stadium 15.