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'(500) Days of Summer': Romantic comedy avoids greeting-card sap

It's no accident that lovesick Tom Hanson (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) of (500) Days of Summer ends up watching faux foreign films to comfort himself while crying. The scene is a wink to some great filmmakers who might have influenced music video director Marc Webb in his feature debut.

Summer might not measure up to classics by François Truffaut or Ingmar Bergman, but it is a smart and refreshing story about love — and not a love story. The tale's Summer (Zooey Deschanel) is a young, mysterious woman who has begun working at the greeting-card company where Tom has toiled for three years, creating those pithy wishes that people rely on when they can't figure out what to say. Plans to be an architect hadn't worked out.

Summer and Tom seem reasonably matched — with offbeat senses of humor and tastes — but she warns him early on that a long-term relationship isn't in the cards. (The ending of The Graduate has put her off on the idea of marriage.) Webb and his screenwriters have cleverly scrambled the chronology; the audience knows early on about the troubles the couple run into.

But watching them alternately falling together and falling apart is quite amusing. Both principals have low-key charm — Gordon-Levitt has an easy-going intelligence, and Deschanel has an attractive otherworldliness about her.

(500) Days of Summer is clever — although not particularly deep — and a little too cute at times, both in its visual and its script references. But Webb shows plenty of style and promise, and the film does offer a welcome alternative to so many sappy rom-coms that play to greeting-card sentiments.

(500) Days of Summer retails for $29.99 and $39.99 on Blu-ray.

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