'500 Days of Summer'

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"500 Days of Summer" is a lighthearted autopsy of a love gone sour from a strictly male point of view. You're not going to understand the girl very well, and you might learn more about the boy than you really want. This imbalance throws off some of the comic possibilities of this rom-com-in-spite-of-itself, but others will not be denied. The writing often is clever and the overall production playful and intelligent.

Fox Searchlight might coax a midlevel hit. Certainly the film serves as a vehicle for Joseph Gordon-Levitt to pitch his claim for leading-man status in Hollywood films. And it reconfirms Zooey Deschanel's status as one of the town's most charming and talented young female leads.

The film is male-centric in the extreme. The woman at the center, Summer (Deschanel), is the intense focus of not only her lover, Tom (Gordon-Levitt), but also his buddies Paul (Matthew Gray Gubler) and McKenzie (Geoffrey Arend). They all scrutinize her every comment and gesture like obsessed bloggers arguing about the latest video game. Thus, Summer is the sum of every male's perception of her, without giving her much chance to argue her case.

The movie opens with the declaration that this is the story of a doomed love that did not last. In those 500 days of Summer, she will dump Tom, and he will have to endure the suffering and the advice of his friends and, more helpfully, of his wise little sister Rachel (Chloe Grace Moretz).

Tom encounters Summer at a point where his gears are stuck in neutral. Trained as an architect, he works as a greeting-card writer. He is smitten on Day 1 when his boss introduces her as his new secretary, just arrived from Michigan. The movie amusingly tracks back and forth through this year and a half to contrast a day of sheer glory with one of sheer anguish.

One highlight of this M.O. comes when Tom leaves for work following his first night with Summer. The world is in love. Everyone reacts to him with big smiles and high fives. Eventually, a marching band joins in a celebratory dance number straight out of a Bollywood movie that continues until he hits the elevator at work. The contrast is the day he steps from the elevator looking like he just went five rounds with the heavyweight champ.

"500 Days" obsesses too much in its heroine without plumbing her depths. Does she even have a family? For that matter, does Tom, other than his sister? The film struggles at times to find things for the couple to do and ways to indicate her fluctuating moods. His mood, curiously, never really changes; he's too infatuated with her to have moods that don't directly relate to hers. When a friend says Tom acts like a stalker, he's not exactly wrong.

But as an old comic said, dying is easy, and comedy is hard. And this comedy does deliver a goodly amount of laughs. (partialdiff)
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