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Cinema Signal: Not quite a green light but has elements of strong appeal for a limited audience.

Sing Like an American Idol, Women's Edition
Everything You Need to Sing the Hits!

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. "(500) Days of Summer"

Down the gushing river of romantic comedies there is the occasional stray that wanders its way into new territory. "(500) Days of Summer" is just such an oddball, venturing on its own path, diverging from the usual femme-sentimentality puff track using, as one of its unique comedic techniques, a flash forward-flash back pattern to analyze where a relationship that seemed so right fell apart. The approach has originality all over it as it flows from smooth to rocky to evaporated.

A narrative voice keeps us chronologically straight as we follow a couple who could be considered ideally suited to one another--until the corrosive forces of theories about life and love impose their effect. It boils down to imbalance--him not being emotionally prepared for theoretical objectivity from his love object; her being more disposed to citing her philosophical propositions about relationships than to proposals.

Basically, Summer (pert Zooey Deschanel) is a bit of a kook, with these... ideas. Tom's (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) pretty much down to submission to his basic emotions over this girl, which start the instant he spots her arriving as the new girl in the greeting card company's office where he works. He writes greetings for cards because he's too timid to pursue his architecture. A victim of his own weaknesses, he's all too eager to be anything Summer wants in order to have his dream girl. Unconventional? Not a great plan and an even worse position.

As the initial heat of the affair drops below boiling, the tipping point comes up one night when they're sitting at a bar, arguing. A coarse, self-imagined Lothario idiot comes on to her. When it's clear that she's having nothing to do with the man, he starts insulting Tom and her choice in men. A sterling dude. When it gets too much, Tom stands and throws a straight jab to the guy's face. A moment later, the guy stands up and gives Tom a taste of fist.

Tom's action here could be seen differently, according to your basic frame of mind. Summer's has become sharply negative. In the car, she berates poor, bleeding Tom, for the insult of depriving her of the ability to take care of her own issues. Not a shred of understanding or empathy for Tom, not a thank you for defending her against a crude moron. She just doesn't see any of that in Tom's action, and that means trouble, as in rising icebergs.

Some hours later, she thaws enough to pay Tom a sweet, late-night visit by way of apology. But, the sea change in her attachment to him is out of the bag, and it's just the beginning of her interest in him drying up. The rest is the pain and confusion of rejection.

Like said, this is a new tack in romantic comedy--the element of personal tragedy. And, told from the male's side with little to no unctuous sentimentality, screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, for their second screenplay ("The Pink Panther 2," 2009), show that they have a sure handle on the vicissitudes of romance, which director Marc Webb made the most of. Kudos. Except...

Though there's not much sign of exception in the overall critical reaction to this bit of unrequited chemistry, and, for the most part, I revel in its offbeat pathway, same as others, I had one glaring problem. Which is that while she was getting tired of him I was tiring of them both. Maybe because this is a short story padded out to feature length. Maybe because his guy's pals provided little in the way of expanding or deepening the drama. But, by the middle of the third act I was checking my watch. Somewhere along the way this promising scenario dropped anchor and began scraping along the bottom. And I adore Zooey. Not good.

The casting, on the other hand, is ideal. It both solidifies Deschanel as a star on the rise and seems conceived for her stylistic individuality. For Gordon-Levitt, his appearance is likely to mean even more, career-wise. His naturalism incorporates fragile masculinity with great emotional vulnerability which goes a long way toward mass audience identification. He's comfortable and charming, far from a take-over guy and nicely uncomplicated.

I've been part of his fan base since he put the same virtues to work in the splendid "The Lookout." Five films in-between haven't budged his quotient as serious star material. But this performance should give him a shot.

The film, though, is too much of a good thing. There's much perception in the nuances of romantic behavior here and it's presented with loads of savvy, but it strains under the weight of so much being made over it that, in the end, it drowns from an excess of simplicity. I feel for Tom, I commisserate with him for his tragedy but, for me, 300 days of Summer would have been more than sufficient.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

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Opinion Section
Comments from readers:
Perceptive
I've seen the movie and disagree with the review
Site rating: 6

Although there were some genuinely funny and nearly heartfelt moments, I felt that the film relied to heavily on visual gimmickry and was generally too shallow to keep my interest. The ultimate moral of the story wasn't worth the effort of watching the film......also, it doesn't help that I don't care for Zooey Deschanel. She has no range to speak of, nothing particularly interesting about her as an actress. Perhaps that's why they cast her as Summer, to remind us that this woman is essentially superficial and immature. For cute brunette pixie actresses, I'll take Natalie Portman or Winona Ryder any day over Zooey.

                                                           ~~ Larry 
Well written
I've seen the movie and agree with the review
Site rating: 10

I, too, liked the movie but found myself looking at my watch.

                                                           ~~ Peter 



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Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel
Tom and Summer, when days were good.

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