There's a moment relatively early in 500 Days of Summer where Joseph Gordon-Levitt's Tom Hanson, beginning a relationship with Zooey Deschanael's Summer Finn, rhapsodizes over various things he loves about her (her crooked smile, her knobby knees, how she always makes him think of the same dumb song). There's a moment later on, post break-up, where we hear this same monologue again, only this time as a venomous rant about all the things he hates about her. It's a sharp moment which gets at what the film is about: the way memory shapes and alters "reality." The film, as one can probably tell from the trailers, is a break-up story told out of chronological order, which allows the viewer to reconstruct the relationship and its fallout along with Tom. Although the film has an odd, often annoying, omniscient narration which pops up at times, the point-of-view is certainly Tom's. As some critics have said, this is essentially a romance for sensitive indie-guys, with Zooey perfectly cast, since the real Zooey, perhaps largely due to her recent musical stint as the "She" to M. Ward's "Him," has sort of become the indie "It" girl of the moment. Summer remains, appropriately, somewhat cryptic, with the film suggesting that perhaps much of her allure is due as much to what Tom projects onto her as much as any qualities she inherently possesses. As the narrator tells us, Tom's romantic sensibility has been forever shaped due to his "complete misreading" of The Graduate's final images: he projects forward to a happy ending, ignoring the bewilderment on the faces of Benjamin and Elaine as that film closes. And on some level his involvement with Summer serves to harden him, since she seeks to deny any notions of "true love" and "destiny." Yet it's Tom's romantic sensibility that finally gets the upper-hand here, leaving us with a magical meeting that's completely corny but totally appropriate.
The movie is enjoyable but certainly flawed, often too cute, and the supporting cast doesn't work very well. But Levitt, I think, is the real deal. Watch him in The Lookout, Brick, Mysterious Skin, and his powerful turn as Cobra Commander in GI Joe and judge for yourself. Okay, that last one's a joke. But the kid's a serious actor. And Zooey...Zooey is very adorable. Now I'm going to play my She and Him record.