By rights, this shouldn’t work. It’s clearly cut from the same cloth as Juno – a cool, independently minded romantic comedy aimed that designed to appeal as much to men as it does to women. And, as we all should know, it’s always painful when we’re offered a film that’s ‘another’ of last year’s big breakout hit.
(500) Days Of Summer, though, is better than Juno. It is smart, funny and independently minded with a great soundtrack (off ‘sad British pop music’ as the narrator memorably intones at the beginning to explain the lead character’s outlook on life) – but actually feels more real than Juno’s enjoyable but unnaturally cool dialogue. It’s funny and clever in its use of what could have been a serious misstep of a dance scene. It gets away with so much by perfect balance and self-control at all the right moments.
The real plus of the film, though, is in its point-of-view. This is all from the perspective of one character – the man (played by the always engaging Joseph Gordon-Levitt). That’s at least partly a marketing thing, obviously, but it works. As the narrative zips back and forward across the titular 500 days it slowly becomes clear that what we think is happening may not be – we, like the man himself, may be reading things the wrong way. He’s seeing things though the lens of his own desires and prejudices, and it lands him in all sorts of emotional trouble, culminating in a beautiful split-screen sequence showing the same scene from the perspective of both his expectations and the painful reality. Slowly the former gives way to the latter, and his world collapses with exquisite agony.
Of course, there’s stock character – his two mates, for example. Both the central characters are typical of the genre also – but when the two leads (Zooey Deschanel as Summer) are as engaging as this, it doesn’t matter. So much just works, carrying you through the inevitable flaws: the soundtrack is perfect (maybe I’m just biased but any film with features The Smiths twice in the first half hour is on to a winner); the narration is occasional, beautiful and charming; the ending entirely appropriate and just ambiguous enough whilst still being unmistakeably upbeat.
So, see it. One of the very few romantic comedies to appeal equally to men and women; it will make you think about what you see and what’s real in relationships; and it will just make you smile. See it.