Technically, (500) Days of Summer is a romantic comedy, but compared to most movies in the genre, it stands by itself -- a movie so genuinely funny and achingly poignant, it deserves to be shelved in its own section, far away from the usual, uncreative lot of 27 Dresses and The Proposal.
It stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Tom, a twentysomething writer at a greeting card company, whose self-professed misperception of idealized love stems from a youth devoted to sad British pop songs and "a complete misreading of the movie The Graduate." Unrealistically primed for an epic and consummate True Love, he falls hard for the chronically bewitching Summer (Zooey Deschanel), whose beauty and charm belie the fact that she doesn't really believe in love at all. Nonetheless, she and Tom begin an affair under the pretense of "keeping it casual," and Tom starts to believe that he's changing her mind about the whole thing. While the magic of new romance is blooming, Tom is all aglow, and his life becomes a Hall & Oates music video as he struts down the street to work. When things with Summer have reached their inevitable crash (in glimpses that cut in directly from the happy moments, in a clever presentation of the nonlinear timeline), his world becomes a depressing black-and-white French art film, with balloons slipping away into the sky, and creepy little kids beating him at chess.
Carrying the torch of John Cusack-style, male-centric romantic comedies, (500) Days of Summer bears a favorable resemblance to 1999's High Fidelity. It feels just as relevant as ever for a movie to point out how narcissistic romantic notions can be, and (500) Days does it with a sympathetic hand, and a lot of creativity. It manages to deliver a love story that gets you invested even though you know it can't end neatly with either happiness or tragedy, but rather with a bittersweet mishmash of imperfection -- one that everybody can probably relate to.