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(500) Days of Summer (10/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 96 minutes.

OK for children.

Now this is a movie worth waiting for. Directed by Marc Webb in his debut, and written by Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber, this is a romance from real life. In fact, all three claim to have had flings with the prototype for Summer (Zooey Deschanel).

Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a budding architect, but employed as a writer of greeting card verse, falls for his boss’s new assistant, Summer, and what man wouldn’t? The film jumps from scene to scene in the affair between days 1 and 500 in a charmingly non-chronological order.

Where is the man who hasn’t met the girl of his dreams, only to be told that she just wants to be “friends,” and isn’t looking for a serious relationship? Where do women come up with this stuff? Well, that’s what Summer tells Tom, even though her actions belie her words as they quickly become friends with privileges.

I’m a guy and Zooey Deschanel is a girl who stole my heart the first time I saw her on film. I asked my friend, a girl, if she felt the same way about Gordon-Levitt after seeing this film, and she did. A romantic comedy could hope for no more than to have this type of reaction in its audience to its two stars.

I remember Gordon-Levitt for his wonderful performance as a teenager on the TV sitcom “Third Rock from the Sun” (1996-2001). Despite his youth he created a memorable, unique character. He has developed into the terrific actor that role foretold. Here he captures the dilemma of a guy desperately in love with an inscrutable girl so spot on that it would be a crime if he didn’t get an Oscar® nomination for this performance.

As to Deschanel, I can’t figure out if she’s acting or if it’s just the way she is (she had a similar role in 2008’s “Yes Man”, and I had a similar reaction to her, like, “What’s her phone number?”). Since that’s a perfect definition of a great actress, she should get a nomination, too. But then she would have to be nominated every time she appears on film. For my money she’s a budding superstar. She’s more beautiful and is a much better actress than, say, Julia Roberts.

Everything about this movie is terrific. Along with the perfect casting and wonderful acting, are the way it’s written and the overall film-making. A wry narrator (Richard McGonagle, with a voice with just the right touch of whimsy) occasionally comes in to make comments about what’s going on. The non-chronological way of telling the story alerts the audience to things it might miss if told in the conventional way.

For me, watching Deschanel would be enough to make this movie a winner. With everything else so good, this is one of the best of the year.

July 15, 2009