AWFJ Women On Film – “500 Days of Summer” – Susan Granger reviews

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Music video director Marc Webb discards chronological structure in relating this boy-meets-girl, boy-loses girl saga about an amiable aspiring architect from New Jersey, Tom Hanson (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who works in downtown Los Angeles writing copy for greeting cards. When Tom’s boss (Clark Gregg) hires a new assistant named Summer (Zooey Deschanel), fresh off the plane from Michigan, he’s smitten.

They like the same music (Springsteen, The Smiths), share a similar artistic taste (surrealist Magritte), even browsing through IKEA as if they were a couple. “We’re compatible like crazy,” Tom muses, blissfully.

The number in the title coyly refers to the length of time between the day they meet and the day they part. Sure, it’s a gimmick, as is the unconventional jumping backwards-and-forwards through time, but – for the most part – the scrambling works. Written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (“Pink Panther 2”), the emotional interaction between the twentysomethings is engaging, even though the jumbled chronology device inexplicably goes linear mid-way through the story. In his first feature outing, director Marc Webb makes the most of nuances like past family divorces and contemporary workplace socialization and deftly utilizes a split-screen to create empathy. Not surprisingly, the distinctive music he chooses enhances the mood of each scene, particularly when he has Tom exuberantly dancing-in-the-park with a line of hoofers.

Since the story is told from Tom’s naïve point-of-view, Joseph Gordon-Levitt (TV’s “3rd Rock from the Sun”) captures the heartbreak and misery of rejection, surmising, “I think the key for me is to figure out what went wrong,” while Zooey Deschanel embodies the outwardly flirtatious free-spirit who, nevertheless, adamantly guards herself from commitment with elusive cynicism: “Relationships are messy and feelings get hurt. Who needs all that? Let’s have as much fun as we can.”

Unfortunately, the stereotypical subsidiary characters – Geoffrey Arend, Matthew Gray Gubler, Chloe Moretz – are less effective. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “500 Days of Summer” is an offbeat, bittersweet 7. It’s a whimsical tale of love gone awry.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.