In 500 Days of Summer, I was amazed at how certain aspects of it are so “oldey-timey.” Even its scattered use of meditative voice-over and its use of a certain pop-rock songs are quite retro, the latter featuring not only the Smiths’ “There is a Light That Never Goes Out” (1986), but also a hilariously cheesy fantasy sequence making use of Hall and Oates’ “You Make My Dreams (Come True)” (1980) and even reasonable integrations (?!) of karaoke performances and arguments for Ringo Starr as the “best Beatle.”
As with so many of Woody Allen’s movies, this film has surface features of being a “romantic comedy,” but it’s actually far more philosophical than anything even remotely along those lines these days. Basically, a young woman (Zooey Deschanel) doesn’t want a serious relationship with a smitten young man (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) but “plays” with him for a while anyhow. However, the tone of the film, despite a few somewhat extreme moments (including its opening “dedication”), is surprisingly not really depressing or vindictive at all.
Despite the semi-retro vibe of parts of the movie, it is also set in a reasonable version of the present and in a gently post-modern, time-shifting way, as directed by former music-video director Marc Webb. It also features usually-underplayed aspects of Los Angeles, such as green spaces, architecture, park benches, “everyday” business, public transit, and relatively normal people. I’ve lived there for six years, so I know perfectly well that it’s not all movie stars and freeways, in the same way that I know perfectly well that 1980s’ music isn’t all about Madonna videos.