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(500) Days of Summer

"This is a story of boy meets girl but you should know up front, this is not a love story..." begins the droll narrator of Marc Webb's quirky comedy. From the opening frames of (500) Days Of Summer, we are acutely aware that this romance on the sun-dappled streets of New York City has no happy ending. Love can be uplifting and inspiring, but it can also be cruel and unforgiving. Scott Neustadter and Michael H Weber's polished screenplay piques our interest at the pre-credits legal disclaimer: "The following is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental... Especially you, Jenny Beckman... Bitch." If revenge is a dish best served cold then the writers are serving up a deep-frozen, three-course meal here and inviting us to tuck in. Conventions and expectations are defied at every turn: the chronology is intentionally fractured to juxtapose contrasting episodes in the relationship, which unfolds over the course of 500 tumultuous days. Tart one-liners are tossed hither and thither and Webb even conducts a glorious song and dance sequence through Central Park complete with an animated bluebird that recalls a frolicking Amy Adams in Enchanted. But once again, as the omnipresent voiceover keeps reminding us, this is no fairytale. Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) has always nurtured a passion for architecture and he is transfixed by the Big Apple with its mix of old and new: skyscrapers next to churches, urban sprawl separated by the verdant tranquillity of Central Park. During the day, Tom writes platitudes in greetings cards, impressing his boss Vance (Clark Gregg) and co-workers McKenzie (Geoffrey Arend) and Paul (Matthew Gray Gubler) with his ability to find the perfect phrase for every occasion. Humdrum routine in the office changes forever with the arrival of Vance's new assistant, Summer (Zooey Deschanel). Tom is smitten and within days of the new girl starting, the copywriter tells McKenzie and Paul confidently, "It's official. I'm in love with Summer." However, the courtship doesn't quite match up to Tom's old-fashioned ideals. He's a hopeless romantic while Summer speaks plainly when she confesses, "There is no such thing as love. It's a fantasy." His sister Rachel (Chloe Grace Moretz), who has a wise head on very young shoulders, offers advice but her brother is reluctant to see the painful truth. As the 500 days unfold in seemingly random order, Tom comes to realise that while Summer might be perfect for him, he's not her Mr Right Now or Mr Right Ever. Love moulders to hate and suddenly all of Tom's bright and breezy greetings card messages take on a decidedly darker tone... (500) Days Of Summer is a haunting tale of relationship woes, distinguished by strong performances from the two leads, especially Gordon-Levitt as a dreamer who emerges battered and bruised from the emotional wringer. Webb conjures some interludes that take the breath away, like day 408 when the narrator confides, "This time he believed his expectations would align with reality," referring to the lovesick hero's misplaced optimism. The screen splits - Tom's expectations on the left, sobering reality on the right - and we see the disparity between the two, set to Regina Spektor's elegiac ballad "Hero". Scriptwriters Neustadter and Weber cannot resist a cute, upbeat coda. Perhaps they aren't so bitter and twisted after all. The infamous yet elusive Jenny Beckman and her legal team may beg to differ.