Your ability to enjoy “500 Days of Summer” will depend entirely on how you feel about Vampire Weekend. This will be a movie whose offbeat romanticism and hipster chic conjure dreams of cinematic delight, or whose thrift store fashion and millennial mopiness will leave your heart locked up deep somewhere in a gentrified LA loft. Strip down the eccentricities of “500 Days of Summer” and you’ll uncover a more resounding truth: despite its tone, on a pure storytelling and directional level, “500 Days of Summer” is exemplary.
Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Summer (Zooey Deschanel) are never in a hurry, but the movie carries itself with a hyper-aware sense of pacing, knowing if it looms or lingers too much on something for an additional second, it might break the flow of fun that’s been established from frame one. That pacing is owed to writers Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber and director Marc Webb, who dare to make sure the audience is always attentive. Some think the charm of this movie is its “hipsterness,” but its really the fact that these storytellers actively are making things interesting in every frame.
We start with a downtrodden Tom who has just gotten dumped by his quirky romantic partner Summer. Tom is big on matrimony, monogomy, the whole nine loverly yards. Summer though is more free spirited, occasionally lending her heart to those she deems worthy, but always in full ownership of her organ. The movie is essentially the detailing of Tom’s reluctance and refusal to accept Summer’s stance on their romance, never enjoying the temporal nature of the fling because the lack of permanence is driving him bonkers.
But this story isn’t told chronologically, as we jump between pre-breakup and post-breakup in the couple’s lives. While we still enjoy their karaoke antics and impromptu Hall and Oates flash mobs, this back-and-forth storytelling puts us in a position of judging Tom and Summer’s behavior. We find ourselves pitying and loathing Tom for becoming too attached, but also sneer at Summer for leading Tom on when he clearly is getting the wrong idea.
It’s frustrating, but also relieving that not everything is getting wrapped up nicely in a bow. In that sense, “500 Days of Summer” hearkens the best anti rom-coms like “High Fidelity” and even larger scope masterpieces like “La La Land,” a film that serves as testament to the power of love, but not necessarily true love. Even beyond its Urban Outfitters aesthetic, “500 Days of Summer” still bodes a certain charm to it, a vibrance and musicality that leaves us with a spring in our step long after credits have rolled.