Perhaps the summer's one non-romantic comedy, (500) Days of Summer is a smart, humorous, and pretty realistic look at the ups and downs of a couple's relationship. And the path of the couple is far from linear.

Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a young adult who wanted to be an architect but wound up writing greeting cards. He's also something of a hopeless romantic, so it's no surprise that he falls form Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel), an assistant at Tom's office. She's adorable, intelligent, likes several of the same things as Tom -- and she doesn't believe in love or want a commitment. As the narrator tells us early on, "This is a boy meets girl story. It is not a love story."

(500) Days of Summer is framed by a picture and a counter. The counter skips forward and back to times in Tom and Summer's relationship, while the brightness of the background and state of the tree reflect how well or poorly things are going. This could have been a cheap gimmick, but it works well as we how things progress and change.

The movie is a guy's movie -- the focus is on Tom, not Summer -- yet it's surprisingly balanced. Tom can be a jerk, several people ovserve that Summer told him what she didn't want, and despite several guy friends helping or consoling Tom, the best advice he gets comes from Rachel (Chloe Moretz), Tom's sister who is still in grammar school. The relationship between Tom and Summer feels real, from the early highs (signing karaoke, playing house in Ikea, Tom's euphoric walk to work turning into a musical number) to crushing lows (long silences, misunderstandings, expectations contrasted with reality (through a split-screen scene)).

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is terrific, as always, and Zooey Deschanel matches him well as Summer, the woman who is on a very different wavelength from Tom that he refuses to see. Director Marc Webb treats both sides of this couple evenly, resulting in a smart comedy where, ultimately, no one is to blame. (500) Days of Summer is a step above most cookie-cutter romantic comedies.

Overall grade: B+
Reviewed by James Lynch

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