(500) Days of Summer is a movie custom made for people who love Belle and Sebastian and The Smiths, Annie Hall and Memento, Wes Anderson and Charlie Kaufman. It’s a movie, in other words, custom made for me.
I’m not suggesting it’s as good as any of those things… it’s not. But it’s in their spirit and that counts for a lot.
As the dry narration says right up front, it’s a story about a boy and a girl but it’s not a love story. In fact, even that is a little misleading… it’s really a movie about a boy. The girl, Summer (well portrayed by the endearing, sweetly sexy Zooey Deschanel), is more a type than a fully fleshed-out character. And oh, what a type. Casually irresistible, she draws a certain kind of guy in like a magnet through no fault or design of her own. She ‘s never as into you as you’re into her but she’s just vulnerable enough to make you think that might change.
I mentioned this scene in my recent review of She & Him’s debut album, Volume One. It’s the moment I first learned that Zooey Deschanel has a wonderful singing voice. It’s also a very sweet scene in a very sweet film.
The track record of actors turned musicians is not a strong one. Eddie Murphy, Bruce Willis, Lindsay Lohan, Juliette Lewis — crap, all of it. It doesn’t seem to work the other way around, though. Plenty of musicians (especially rappers) make fine actors. I guess singing is already a form of acting, while the reverse isn’t true.
I mention this to point out why the success of She & Him is a very special achievement. Zooey Deschanel (Almost Famous, Elf, All the Real Girls) is the “she” in She & Him, while the “him” is alternative singer-songwriter M. Ward. But the band’s name is deceiving, because this is truly Deschanel’s work. She wrote all the original songs and sings every track, while Ward handles production and plays the guitar.