I read somewhere online that this film was ' 27 Dresses for people who prefer The Smiths to Bryan Adams.' I liked this line, for one because it made me laugh and for a second it sort of has a point. The Indie romance has been cut too much slack in general, as usually they perpetuate the same sort of agenda of cliche only with a hipper soundtrack. This movie is something different in places, and at times its clever and unique but at then again there's a lot of self-conscious quirk at work here too. Such as the pre-teen sister doling out relationship advice, the false-note omniscient voice-over which was clearly shooting after a similar trick played in Magnolia, but comes off more like the voice over from Pushing Daisies (Another steal on my part, apologies.) and the use of not one but two Regina Spektor songs. Not saying she's bad but once someone's been used in Grey's Anatomy maybe films should lay off them for a year or two. Its a shame because if it had kept some of the whimsy in its pants this would have been a very very good film.
The story follows Tom ( Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a naive young man who believes very strongly in the concept of romantic love and the idea of ' the one' and all that stuff. Summer (Zooey Deschanel) is slightly more cynical, believing that love is a fantasy and that life is for living and having fun and being free etc.. and that labels are for Hallmark cards and don't apply to reality. (Incidentally, Tom's job is a greeting card writer) So while the inevitable happens, Tom falls head over heels for her, and while she reciprocates affection she insists on it being casual and on occasion keeps him at an Icy distance. What follows is in many ways a film about the effect of expectations have on any relationship, and that even the most idyllic human interaction is beat down by thought of what it could be rather then it is. This is best illustrated in an absolutely crushing scene, where Tom meets Summer at a party and in split-screen we see how things play out in his expectations and how things play out in reality. The film isn't cynical, and clearly believes in the concept of love, but it does so on a realistic level and a large part of the film sees Tom's life essentially destroyed by the fact that he believed in the altruistic kind of love as sold by romantic comedies and pop songs and greetings cards and went in defenses down against someone who really didn't feel the same way. Burn. The central pair of Gordon-Levitt and Deschanel are both impressive, he giving a performance of real every-man relatability and her fluctuating nicely in between charming free spirit and ice-queen hid behind a disarming smile. Its to its credit that it didn't demonize Summer entirely, which it could've done.
See the bulk of the film is very good. Its insightful, the main characters are credible its well written and well acted. But what hinders it is the padding, the smaller touches to the film which belong to a film with less intelligence, such as all the stuff mentioned in the first paragraph. Its like writer Scott Neudstadter almost didn't trust the main story he was telling, and in doing added a superfluous layer of Indie cliche to make it more accessible. Without it, he would have made possibly the best movie of its type in 10 years, instead its just a very good movie. Which I enjoyed much more then I expected, given the trailer and the opening credit sequence of home movie type montage, which had me concerned. It pulled through.