Over the weekend, PJ and I saw (500) Days of Summer starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel. Gordon-Levitt plays Tom, a relatively recent college grad who couldn’t find work in an architectural firm so he’s working as a writer for a greeting card company. He believes in true love and thinks he’s found it when he meets Summer, played by Deschanel, one day at work. Here’s the trailer:

As the trailer states, this isn’t actually a “love story” in the traditional sense, which is what I really like about it. Director Marc Webb, who’s been a video director up until now, and the film’s writers attempt to experiment both with genre and form in this movie. We’re told from the beginning that our protagonists will not end up together. This movie, therefore, relates their meeting, dating, and relationship demise rather than their meeting, courtship, and marriage. I love anti-romances, so I like this element of the film a lot.

Likewise, the story isn’t told in chronological order. Instead, events are related out of sequence, jumping back and forth between when Tom and Summer are together and after they break up. The film also incorporates some fantasy sequences, like when Tom (and everyone else around him) breaks out into a dance routine. There’s even an animated blue bird in the sequence, just to make sure that we get the film’s argument that traditional romances (and romantic films) are fairy tales.

I went to this movie thinking I wouldn’t like it, so I was surprised by how much I did like it. It’s funny, sweet, acerbic, and entertaining.

I especially like Gordon-Levitt. He plays the perfect everyman. Our perception of his character is supposed to change over the course of the film — PJ and I both thought it could have done a better job of this than it does — and Gordon-Levitt is great at conveying the full range of Tom’s emotions and foibles. Plus, he’s the perfect model. He looks great in everything he wears in this movie. It’s like watching a J Crew or Gap commercial (but in a good way).

Deschanel is also very good as Summer. PJ loves her and her music, which I’ve never really warmed to. I think that was part of the reason I expected not to like this movie. My tepid feelings towards her actually work for this movie, since we’re not supposed to instantly like her, I think.

The movie also has a great soundtrack, which features Regina Spektor and The Smiths. I really like Spektor’s “Us,” which I hadn’t heard before. It’s a great song, so I’m including a video of her singing it live here:

Overall, I really enjoyed this movie. It’s not quite as good as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which is similar in narrative experimentation, I think, but it is one of the best movies I’ve seen so far this year. I recommend it and the soundtrack.