While it might be unjust to call the “love” story at the heart of (500) Days of Summer conventional, you’d never it know it with the multitude of brilliant inventions heightening this tale of chasing dreams and fateful fantasy. From clever juxtapositions of events and the seamless integration of classic films, traditional animation, and a morose narrator, to unique editing and a visual calendar of fledgling love and tragic heartache, “Summer” transcends the romantic comedy genre to become an engagingly mature, yet whimsical look at that ever-so-fragile emotion and its effects both glorious and dispiriting.
(500) Days of Summer chronicles the relationship of Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Summer (Zooey Deschanel), two employees at a greeting card company with very different ideologies on love. Traveling back and forth in time throughout their 500 days together, pieces of their journey are steadily revealed to create a portrait of love at once wonderfully triumphant and agonizingly heartbreaking.
The narrator tells us that this is a “boy meets girl” story, but that it is not about love. Perhaps it’s the power of coincidence, the ideals of destiny, the wonders of fate, the harsh contradictions between expectations and reality, or real love in disguise. The film may use a well-known storytelling idea, but there’s nothing ordinary about its execution. (500) Days of Summer portrays a “typical” modern romance with extraordinary methods, including split screens, slow-motion, characters talking to the camera, a full-blown dance sequence, and an impressionistic, foreign, artsy, black-and-white experimental tidbit (among many other fascinatingly inventive techniques).
Tom holds movies, songs, and even greeting cards responsible for preventing people from saying what they really feel and for the corruption of emotions, causing them (especially love) to be completely indefinable. It’s a fantasy that can only be recognized by or compared to peers who believe they’ve attained it. During his evolving perception of love, we see a spectrum as diverse as the special effects and soundtrack that compliment the imagery.
Using his younger sister as a rational, intellectual source for advice on love further fuels the deconstruction of maturity which otherwise might serve as an indication of education on the subject; here it is as contrasting as the editing that cuts back and forth between Tom’s utmost happiness and bitter despair. Summer is the “dude,” looking for casual, no-pressure romance, taking the role of the stereotypical, uncaring guy and not the relationship-demanding, over-affectionate girl. She’s against the grain, not commonplace; she’s Sid, not Nancy. And because of these opposing variances to the romantic dramedy formula, (500) Days of Summer is fresh, different and entirely worthwhile.
– The Massie Twins