Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel Connect in ‘(500) Days of Summer’

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CHICAGO – Romantic comedies have been so sanitized, obviously for the protection of the movie consumer, that it is refreshing to meet a reality-based couple as they interact, co-mingle, love and clash in “(500) Days of Summer.”

Summer is actually the name of the woman in the relationship, played by Zooey Deschanel. She is a co-worker of Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) at a greeting card company, where they meet cute after Summer admires Tom’s taste in music.

One of 500: Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Summer and Tom in ‘(500) Days of Summer’
One of 500: Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Summer and Tom in ‘(500) Days of Summer’
Photo credit: TM & © 2008 Chuck Zlotnick for Fox Searchlight Pictures

An office karaoke party is the next step in their coming together, with hints and flirtations becoming a more subsistent intermingling. And so begins their excursion as a couple for 500 days.

The film uses a technique that skips from day-to-day, never in order (Day 6 might be followed by Day 438), as the dynamics of the romance play out through the various stages of the couple’s emotional interaction. Tom remains the hopeful optimist about the pairing throughout, while it is obvious that Summer has a distinctly different viewpoint.

First time director Marc Webb reveals a sure hand in weaving the various days without revealing the outcome too quickly. Screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber have a knack for creating laughs within a modern love affair, adding the nuances of past family divorces, workplace socialization and casual sexuality to the to the journey of contemporary togetherness.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is challenging himself as he evolves up the movie role ladder. Playing a young adult lead here, he gives Tom a heart-on-his-sleeve sensitivity that is both fascinating and frightening to watch at the same time. His handling of the instinctual peaks and valleys in being with Summer is familiar to anyone who has comforted a friend through a rocky relationship.

Zooey Deschanel is perfect as the free spirited woman on the surface, but adeptly keeps her guard up on the inside. She handles the downward trend in her and Tom’s coupling beautifully, keeping her character honest and balanced without being demonizing. Her performance was achingly real and charming without being saccharine – a testament to the overall production.

Zooey Deschanel as Summer in ‘(500) Days of Summer’
Zooey Deschanel as Summer in ‘(500) Days of Summer’
Photo credit: TM & © 2008 Chuck Zlotnick for Fox Searchlight Pictures

Director Webb and his crafty screenwriters concocted some smart film tricks to communicate the ever-changing elements of Tom and Summer. Webb’s background in music video must have helped in choreographing Tom’s happiness within a spontaneous dance routine in an office plaza. He also used an audacious split screen take in an awkward situation that creates instant empathy.

Not everything in the film worked as well. Flying from different days (and changing the mood of the relationship within the technique) made it hard to follow initially, but it got easier as everything unfolded.

The scene with the noble and fed-up office worker grandly quitting has been done before, and probably can never occur in reality without security being called. The filmmakers also may have let Tom, through Gordon-Levitt, become a bit too unhinged in trying to wrest out some down-in-the-dumps laughs.

But spending time with Tom and Summer will remind everyone that the path to relationship happiness is paved with both faulty…and funny…adventures.

‘(500) Days of Summer’ opens Friday, July 17, and features Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel and Geoffrey Arend, directed by Marc Webb. Check local theaters for showtimes. Click here to see’s coverage of the Chicago premiere at the Gen Art Film Festival. staff writer Patrick McDonald

Staff Writer

© 2009 Patrick McDonald,

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