A greeting card writer (Joseph Gordan-Levitt) falls hard for Summer (Zooey Deschanel), an attractive co-worker who agrees to go out with him but remains headstrong about only wanting to be friends. The film opens with a teasing glimpse of the last scene, which establishes that their relationship lasts a total of 500 days. Title cards mark the beginning of every sequence, as we get glimpses of different days of their relationship in random order.
Like its title, the movie is clever but full of itself. It was a wise choice to cast Deschanel (who was honored at the Maui Film Fest this year when the film screened) in the title role. Rather than cast a flashier, more obvious actress, the filmmakers decided to showcase Deschanel’s considerable, thinking man’s, girl-next-door beauty. Unfortunately, while she’s as appealing as ever, her performance underlines what a limited actress she is, particularly in the film’s most complex role. Gordan-Levitt shows he can carry a movie, and, like Deschanel, casting him was a smart decision; he’s more of an Everyman than most movie stars, yet the story only offers him two different emotions—gleeful or depressed.
The beginning suggests we’re in for a cinematic deconstruction of the modern romantic comedy and, for a while, it looks like the film might actually break new ground. But with the obligatory Meet Cute scene, the inclusion of the inevitable best friends who are only around to ask the lead “So, what’s she like?” and the endless montages, the film tips its hand and winds up being the same-old, same-old love story.
There are some inventive touches, like a brilliant sequence, shot in split screen, that juxtaposes the leading man’s expectations with reality. Director Marc Webb has a good eye and clearly knows how to merge beautiful cityscape imagery with a great song (the soundtrack is well worth a download). There are some funny throwaway jokes, like a nod to Patrick Swayze’s only number one pop song, but, like the big fantasy dream sequence that takes a good joke and hammers it to death, the film misses its chance to be remarkable by trying too hard.
The term “art movie” used to refer to risk-taking works like Blue Velvet. But now, more often than not, it means safe, “quirky,” star-studded movies about white angst, like Napoleon Dynamite, Juno and anything by Wes Anderson. Some of these films work beautifully, but many have their head up their okole, and are nowhere near as profound as they think they are. Maui Time Weekly, Barry Wurst II