'Days Of Summer': Ephron For The Hipster Set

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel in '500 Days Of Summer' i i

Love, Just For The Record: Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) earns the attention of the mercurial pixie Summer (Zooey Deschanel) with his taste in music. Chuck Zlotnick/Fox Searchlight hide caption

itoggle caption Chuck Zlotnick/Fox Searchlight
Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel in '500 Days Of Summer'

Love, Just For The Record: Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) earns the attention of the mercurial pixie Summer (Zooey Deschanel) with his taste in music.

Chuck Zlotnick/Fox Searchlight

(500) Days of Summer

  • Director: Marc Webb
  • Genre: Comedy, Romance
  • Running Time: 95 minutes

Rated PG-13: sexual material and language

With: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel

Everything you need to know about Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) you can learn from his clothes: slouchy blazer over sweater vest, dress shirt unbuttoned at the top with rolled-up cuffs and a loose tie. Khakis, sneakers, a canvas bag slung over his shoulder.

Assembled, these duds constitute the dress code for the adorable creative professional. Indeed Tom, though trained as an architect, writes copy for a greeting-card company, and the rough edges and sloppy details tell us he's a whimsical creature with a touch of the slacker about him, a man self-conscious about his image as a white-collar hipster.

(500) Days of Summer is the story of how Tom meets and falls in and then out of love with an altogether more put-together pixie named — ha! — Summer (Zooey Deschanel). She's hired as an assistant at the card company, and it's love at the first sight of her bewitching blue eyes.

Style and surface are very much the point of this aggressively hip rom-com, a movie designed to appeal to cool kids who wouldn't be caught dead at a Nora Ephron flick, but who crave their corny sentiments all the same.

Tom and Summer meet in an elevator when she notices he's listening to The Smiths — cultural shorthand for "I'm the sensitive, imaginative straight guy." (Who could resist?) They're quirky, sexy, upwardly mobile and vaguely soulful — prime examples of a seductive species whose native habitat is the imagination of shallow yet au courant indie filmmakers.

"Indie," here, is used strictly in the sense of being technically independent from a major studio: For all its rhetorical whimsy and hipster dressings, (500) Days of Summer is a thoroughly conservative affair, as culturally and romantically status quo as any Jennifer Aniston vehicle.

Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt i i

Finding Emo: The story of Tom and Summer comes dressed up in structural innovation and rhetorical whimsy, but ultimately it's a thoroughly conservative romantic comedy. Chuck Zlotnick/Fox Searchlight hide caption

itoggle caption Chuck Zlotnick/Fox Searchlight
Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Finding Emo: The story of Tom and Summer comes dressed up in structural innovation and rhetorical whimsy, but ultimately it's a thoroughly conservative romantic comedy.

Chuck Zlotnick/Fox Searchlight

Directed by Marc Webb from a screenplay by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, the movie jumps around its 500-day time span, knitting together the springtime and harsh winter of Tom and Summer's affair. Scrambling the chronology gives the story a gloss of structural innovation that protects the filmmakers, and the audience, from the old-fashioned demands of a deeply felt love story.

After all, the movie might crack under a more conventional telling. Its vision of the sexes, human bonding and the workplace are laughably superficial. Summer embodies woman as titillating enigma: mercurial, unfathomable, covetable. At times she suggests a '60s gamin, like an Anna Karina bedazzling a Godard film with her enigmatic self-possession. But where Karina's magic inhered in the radiant sense that she was in possession of something, no matter how inscrutable to Godard or the audience, Deschanel is a shell. There's no there there.

Tom is only slightly more knowable, albeit reducible to the cliche of the stunted manboy jolted out of his existential funk by love. His principal drama is to man up to his own talents, but the context in which this happens — the greeting-card company, ready-made symbol of phony emotions and easy target for condescension — belies this apparently clever movie's simple-minded nature.

As for his palatial Los Angeles apartment, dressed to the hilt with fabulously expensive shabby-chic furnishings, that's par for the course in rom-com fantasyland, a genre whose flippant dismissals of social and economic realities are ratified here.

Amazing, then, that both Deschanel and Gordon-Levitt manage to shine through this heap of hegemonic cliches. It's impossible not to fall a little bit in love with them, and I suppose it's only fitting that, as the movie proceeds, our affections cool.

But where (500) Days of Summer sympathizes with the gradually estranged lovers, seeking to grasp how things fall apart, audiences may well grow bored with the relentless emo-chic of these two privileged, self-involved hotties, acting out their twee little dramas and faux-naif antics.

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