Is a sleeper still a sleeper if everyone knows it's going to do well? Because I won't try to claim any originality in stating that 500 Days of Summer (opening Friday) is the small indie gem of the summer of 2009, the one friends will make their friends go see as they did Garden State five years ago (not that the two movies have anything else in common).
Still, at first glance, there's nothing about this movie that seems like it would be special. It's about as basic a story as you get. Boy (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) meets girl (Zooey Deschanel). Boy believes in love; girl doesn't. Boy loses girl. Boy is sad. Outside of possibly the now accepted modern-day norm of "guys are the new chicks," it seems like your basic romantic dramedy, right?
Yet somehow the movie never feels familiar. Creative storytelling certainly helps. The romance is told out of sequence (enough to remind you of Eternal Sunshine without seeming too similar), there's a fantasy dance number (that's awesome), and there are plenty of other neat little tricks that keep the movie feeling fresh.
Mostly though it's just really well-executed. Both the leads are immensely likable, so much so that you totally get why he would fall so heavily for her, and you stick with him no matter how much time he spends moping. And unlike most of these type of movies, it actually does work as both a comedy and a drama, cause you really do feel for them the whole way through.
Watching Top Chef: Masters tonight, I saw a ton of trailers for this and each time thought, "you know, I kind of want to see it again." Certainly can't say that for Bruno (review to come, but it was disappointing). So don't be like those people who hate Garden State because they saw it long after the hype took over. Go in with expectations in check and enjoy.