The always-wonderful Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as Tom, a mopey greeting-card writer whose heart swells when he meets perky but distant secretary Summer (Zooey Deschanel). Tom wants to be in love and believes Summer is “the one”; Summer isn’t looking for anything serious and wants a no-strings-attached relationship with Tom. Therein lies the dilemma, as the chasm between what they each desire begins to grow.
Jumping back and forth through time and over the course of Tom and Summer’s 500-day relationship, the film highlights the ups and downs and telling in-between-moments of their time together – what was dreamily perfect, what went wrong, where red flags sprung up and when signs started pointing in curious directions. Providing commentary throughout is an omnipresent narrator, along with Tom’s pals (Geoffrey Arend, Matthew Gray Gubler, Chloe Moretz), who attempt to steer him through the occasionally rocky waters of his seemingly idyllic romance.
Never maudlin and always inventive, (500) Days... turns storytelling on its ear a little by incorporating all sorts of interesting techniques, from a song-and-dance interlude to a brilliantly clever split-screen sequence that shows the contrast between expectation and reality in a given situation. It reminded me a little of something Michel Gondry might do, and I mean that as a sincere compliment!
Kudos go to Gordon-Levitt, as well, who’s insanely likable and heartbreaking and delightful here and who proves, once again, why he’s one of the best young actors around. A little less great was Deschanel, whom I normally really dig, but I blame that more on her character. Summer keeps Tom at an arm’s-length distance but, in the process, the audience is never really given a chance to fall for her the way Tom does. That, in turn, makes it a little harder to be sympathetic towards (and not resentful of) her occasionally frustrating behavior.
While the film as a whole has a decidedly melancholy vibe about it, it ultimately renews one’s faith (or challenges one’s doubts) that what happens in life or love is meant to be, and that any roadblocks we encounter along the way have been put there for a reason. And that’s a sentiment I can get behind in a big way.