The first surprise (unless you've heard anything about this movie prior to seeing it) is that "(500) Days of Summer" is not about a season, but rather about a girl. The film gives us another surprise at the very beginning: this is not a love story. After telling us this, the film begins around day 400 and something. Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is beyond heartbroken.
Why is he heartbroken? 400 something days earlier, Tom, a failed architect who now works as a greeting card creator, meets Summer (Zooey Deschanel). The minute Tom lays eyes on her, he believes he's found the one and only love of his life. Tom and Summer have very different views on love: Tom believes there's one true love for everyone; while Summer is too free spirited to believe that relationships can even exist.
From there, the film tracks the relationship between Tom and Summer. It tracks the very highs, and the very lows. It tracks the moments of real love, the moments of fake love, and the moments of utter resentment. And it does all of this in no particular order.
The structure of the film feels more Tarantinoesque than romantic comedyesque. At one point, we'll be at day 3. Then suddenly, day 188. Day 1. Day 422. Day 57. Day 12. It'll then go back and repeat certain events over and over, but from different perspectives. Maybe a smirk was actually a frown. That's something most films don't do nowadays: stop, look around, and observe.
The film feels like one of those gangster films where a group of failed criminals get together after a botched crime and look back at everything that went wrong; except this time, it's not a botched heist, but a botched love. But was there even love in the first place? Decide for yourself.
The romance part of "(500) Days of Summer" is debatable, but the comedy part certainly is not. While the film has some hilarious dialogue, it doesn't rely on throwaway one-liners to get laughs. It relies on small things, such as tiny edits or little facial expressions to arouse laughter. It might get a laugh out of the deadpan way Summer describes her college nickname, or the order in which it places a certain scene.
Every shot of "(500) Days of Summer" is brimming with energy and life. That's not surprising considering the film is directed by Marc Webb. Before directing this film, Webb was a music video director. Much of the film has the energy and surreal feeling of a music video, as certain scenes will suddenly turn into elaborate drawings while characters churn out giant musical numbers. Many of these creative touches might seem out of place, but they all serve a greater purpose. I can't reveal that purpose hear; you'll just have to see it for yourself.
Every step the film took, I kept waiting for it to mess up. I didn't want it to mess up, but I just couldn't believe a movie could be this perfect. It was hard to believe that the director and the writers could take the right step at the right time during every single moment of the film. Even though it doesn't flow in any sort of chronological order, the film still flows like water. And it's aided at every moment by the anti-chemistry Deschanel and Levitt display. I'm not saying the two actors go poorly together, I'm just saying that this is no ordinary love story. "(500) Days of Summer" is anti a lot of things. Although it is an indie comedy, it plays like the anti-"Garden State."* That is, it challenges all conventional thoughts on love. Love doesn't form because the girl you like also likes The Smiths. But, I can't go into it in much more detail; I'll just let the film speak for itself because sometimes, the best films need to speak for themselves: "Just because some girl likes the same bizarro crap you do, that doesn't make her your soul mate."
Recommended for Fans of: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Graduate, Annie Hall, Garden State, Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction
*Note: This comment is not meant to insult "Garden State" in anyway. "Garden State" is a different, but equally good film.