Why did they have to put that in brackets? And why did they have to call her Summer? Just to create a pun title for the film, or just an elaborate setup for the final line? And why did they have to fracture the timeline? And why does the slightly out-of-place voice-over announce that this isn’t a love story when it blatantly is?
It’s a frustrating set of questions you’re left with after what could be a really great different-perspective rom-com. I understand why the film starts out with Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) splitting up from Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel) and then returns to the start of the relationship – that way it clarifies that you’re seeing the relationship from his remembered point of view and it half reassures you that it’s not going to be your run-of-the-mill standard rom-com ‘boy meets girl, everyone lives happily ever after’ tale, but there seems little need to fracture the timeline other than to try and inject a bit of cool into it. Some of the plot devices come across like that too – both loving The Smiths being one.
The crux of the story is that Tom falls in love with Summer and she doesn’t quite feel the same way. Still, they share many moments of romance and passion over the next few months such as a magical trip to Ikea (believe it or not) and Summer seems unaware (or worse – uncaring) about the effect she is having on Tom.
There are some truly inspired scenes in this. The photocopier scene is one, the musical walk to work is another and perhaps the stand-out sequence is Tom going to a party Summer invites him to, as the screen is split into two with ‘expectations’ and ‘reality’ playing alongside each other – brilliant. Some of the details are frighteningly realistic and will strike a familiar chord with most I’m sure. The pain of unrequited love, the reluctance to commit but also to stop (“You’re not the only one who has a say in this you know and I say we’re a couple”) and the dropping of the ‘F’ bomb (“Wait! You’re still my best friend!”) are excellently portrayed.
But then there’s the cardboard-cutout friends and the clever younger sister who don’t sit as well in the mix. And what’s the whole drawing a skyline on her arm whilst mumbling about how they need to ‘maximise the light’ about?
Perfectly watchable, strikes an uncomfortable chord at times, very sweet at others but sadly short of a classic.
3 on 5
Director: Marc Webb
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel, Chloe Moretz, Geoffrey Arend, Matthew Grey Gubler, Clark Gregg
UK Release: Sep 4 2009