Although it puts on a front of being the antidote to quirky indie romantic comedies, the deceptively conventional (500) Days of Summer is actually just as sentimental and optimistic as the movies it purports to refute. “This is not a love story,” declares the arch omniscient narrator at the outset, but really it is, just not the one it appears to be at first.
The non-love story takes place between 20-something urbanites Tom (Gordon-Levitt) and Summer (Deschanel), both of whom work at a greeting card company, he as a writer and she as a secretary. They bond over their shared love of The Smiths and Bruce Springsteen, bumble into a sexual relationship that blossoms (at least on Tom’s part) into love and then break up, leaving Tom devastated.
All of this info is conveyed right up front, since Summer is told in a nonlinear fashion that serves merely to distract from its squarely traditional core. Gordon-Levitt sells Tom’s naïveté and angst, and Deschanel plays the oddball dream girl as well as she always has (many, many times). Director Webb throws in some fun stylistic set pieces (a Disney-style musical number, a pastiche of Euro-art movies) to emphasize various emotional landmarks, and the movie has a refreshing honesty about the messiness of break-ups. But it falls short of the promised cynicism, instead proving to be as weak-willed and gullible as its hero.