Why can’t this movie be as good as it ought to be? Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel as the leads in an unconventional, indie rom-com? I wanna see that. And I did for a long time, keeping this movie in my watch list for years after its release, never quite getting a chance to watch it, until this afternoon. The problem is that I’ve heard rumblings about the unevenness of (500) Days of Summer in the intervening years, and while I’ve tried not to let writers and friends prematurely influence my opinion, I couldn’t help but worry.
And for good reason. Not since Little Miss Sunshine have I seen an movie so concerned with checking off boxes on a list of indie cinema attributes. Greeting card writer that’s also an aspiring architect? Check. Non-stop soundtrack that makes the whole enterprise feel like a feature length music video with dialog? Check. Quirky friends? Check. Scads of peculiar visual flourishes? Check. The whole movie felt expected.
Now I understand this was the first feature length work for the director and his pair of screenwriters, and boy does it show. Camera shots and movements that seem ill chosen for the moment, or perhaps for to get a cool still for a poster. Dialog and themes that telegraph character behavior. I didn’t hate this movie, but I wish, perhaps, it had been created by some folks with either more under their proverbial belts, or more inherent talent for visual storytelling.
Oh yeah – and JGL’s character? Almost completely unlikeable to me. It’s hard for me to root for our hero when he’s obsessive and jerky so frequently throughout the running time. Still, it’s hard to deny some solid performances by the leads (and almost exclusively the leads). Along with an interesting take on the genre, they saved the movie for me quite a bit.