Here's a romantic comedy that remembers that the best romances have a touch of the bittersweet. That's the happy accident happily titled (500) Days of Summer.
How happy? This pairing of Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who is also starring as Cobra Commander in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, opening Friday) and the quirky Zooey Deschanel can be like new love itself — giddy and irrational. The movie they inhabit is a world tinted by infatuation and sprinkled with fairy dust ... and lovely animated effects and a big dance number.
How accidental? The director, Marc Webb, has mostly music videos (for Jesse McCartney and Green Day) on his résumé. The writers might soon be able to leave Pink Panther 2 off their list of credits.
It's a love story told out of order, with droll narration about how "This is not a love story ... of boy meets girl." We chart Tom's 500-day relationship with Summer (get it?) by days. Day 4: The co-workers at the greeting card company realize they both love the music of The Smiths. Day 288: She's tuned him out.
It's an IKEA courtship, with cute scenes of them pretending to be married in the pretend rooms at the Swedish retailer, for example.
Even the arguments are cute.
"You're happy? We've been like Sid and Nancy for months."
The joke is who is Sid and who is Nancy in this meltdown.
No moon-eyed moment passes without a giggle, no cornball She's Like the Wind musical cliché without a snicker of irony. But the troubles ahead are obvious. He's into love, or at least open to the possibility.
"You don't believe in that, do you?" she retorts.
"It's love. It's not Santa Claus."
The trappings will be familiar to anyone who has ever been to a movie romance — Tom's support group consists of his pals and his much younger but wiser sister (Chloe Moretz). But the dialogue is consistently hilarious, such as when Tom and Summer watch a porno together.
"That looks pretty doable."
Both leads are winning in every frame, even when they're doing each other wrong. Deschanel finally has a vehicle for her offbeat charms, her funny way with a look or a line or a moment at the karaoke mike. Gordon-Levitt hangs with her and does hang-dog ("winning her back") well.
It isn't Hugh and Andie or Meg and whomever, but (500) Days of Summer offers hope that Hollywood can pass that romance baton to somebody other than the crude crew of the Kappa Alpha Apatow frat house.