(500) DAYS OF SUMMER (Marc Webb, 2009)

There is considerable discussion in (500) Days of Summer, which Marc Webb directed from a script by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, about coincidence versus destiny, which is to say, fate, as they apply romantically to what brings a couple together. It is all nonsense and a total distraction in this rueful, wonderful comedy, in which the boy, L.A. greeting-card poet Tom Hansen, a descendant of Riskin and Capra’s Longfellow Deeds, and the girl, Tom’s boss’s assistant Summer Finn, a descendant of our most cherished loner, Huckleberry, quarrel almost as soon as they meet. Summer doesn’t believe in love; according to how she feels, based on parental divorce, it is all a “fantasy.” A co-worker of theirs suggests, “The lady doth protest too much”; but the same could be said about Tom, who really, really, really believes in love. He falls in love with Summer, who responds with a confounding combination of like and sex, almost instantly—quickly enough, indeed, to suggest that Tom isn’t exactly—really—falling in love with her. I kept thinking of Lorenz Hart’s lyric to a Richard Rodgers melody: “Falling in love with love is falling for make-believe./ Falling in love with love is playing the fool;/ Caring too much is such a juvenile fancy.”
     Summer, beautifully played by Zooey Deschanel, warns Tom that she isn’t interested in a “serious” relationship and, smitten, he pretends neither is he. (This movie is smart enough not to dwell on this shift from traditional gender roles.) They break up a couple of times, finally for good, and Tom is in agony to understand why. His overwhelming feelings blot out objectivity. The film comes to us a-chronologically, in numbered bits of their relationship, as Tom tries piecing together the puzzle (for him) of the outcome of this. Crestfallen, he no longer believes in love; but, ultimately, we discover, he hasn’t learned a thing and probably never will. He starts in again with a girl named Autumn.
     If the script somewhat suggests Eric Rohmer (as revised by defeatists), Webb’s poignant filmmaking suggests Wong Kar-Wai.
     How does Joseph Gordon-Levitt do it? He plays the near-infantile neurotic lightly, charmingly and yet to the bloody bone.

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