All of the trailers and promotional packages for Marc Webb’s 500 Days of Summer try to warn audiences that the movie is not a love story, although it plainly has the boy meets girl/boy loses girl set-up. The trick, at least initially, is that it’s all about the efforts of the boy to get his girl back.
The boy, Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), meets his girl, Summer (Zooey Deschanel), in typically cute fashion — on the elevator when she compliments his taste in music, which we’ve now seen enough times to make us want to die with or without The Smiths’ blessing. They fall into a rather casual relationship, Summer unceremoniously dumps Tom and the poor sap revisits every single moment of their time together in the hopes of finding that one thing that will inspire her to take him back.
500 Days is not a love story in the way that we’ve become accustomed to because there’s something more realistic, and even lyrical, in the artifice that Webb and his two leads create. Billie Holiday sang, “You don’t know what love is/Until you’ve learned the meaning of the blues.” More recently The White Stripes updated that sentiment: “You don’t know what love is/You just do as you’re told.”
And therein lies Tom’s dilemma. This is a love story, one where the boy gets the blues and learns to do more than what he’s always been told in the standard romantic comedy formula. It has a ring of truth, and it’s far from ugly. Grade: B