If you are a heterosexual male with a brain and a pulse, chances are you have a crush on Zooey Deschanel. Since I happen to be such, I do indeed a big ol' crush on Ms. Deschanel, and what I'm talking about here is a crush - nothing more, nothing less - and no reason to call the cops or hire bodyguards or anything. Yes, I'm fully aware that she's engaged to the lead singer from Death Cab For Cutie (lucky bastard), so this is but a mere distant appreciation, but I happen to think she's the bee's knees. I really don't know just what that expression means (honestly makes no sense), but it's meant to denote a certain admiration in a person, and since I also happen to admire Ms. Deschanel for her works as an actress and as a singer on top of her external loveliness, the bee's knees it is, unless I find out that it's not meant to be complimentary. How about I just call her a vision of loveliness and leave it at that?
My feelings for Ms. Deschanel have come to the forefront thanks in part to her starring role opposite Joseph Gordon Levitt in 500 DAYS OF SUMMER, which recently screened as the closing film at the SXSW Film Festival here in Austin. In as such that Zooey Deschanel represents a fantasy girl for men who like smart women, 500 DAYS OF SUMMER feeds off that fantasy by giving us the ultimate scenario of meeting Zooey Deschanel, finding out she likes the same music we like (The Smiths!), discovering that we have a lot in common and that she really is the coolest, smartest and all-around prettiest girl to ever walk the earth. She's hip without trying to be hip and lovely and charming in a 100% natural kinda way, the ultimate early 21st Century dream girl. Like in any other movie romance you need people who you can fall in love with, too, and for my money Ms. Deschanel unquestionably fits that bill, and I suppose if you're a young lady then Mr. Gordon Levitt will likewise suffice, and he makes for a good surrogate for the young men in the audience with Zooey crushes. I have been told that there are some (stupid people, mostly) who are not quite as bewitched by Zooey Deschanel as others are, who find her acting ability lacking and her musical skills wanting, and all I can say to them (aside from, "Are you a fucking moron?") is that they are probably not the target audience for 500 DAYS OF SUMMER and they should probably steer clear. But for the rest of us, this picture is pretty much cinematic Zooey catnip, the sensitive young man's equivalent of a Nora Ephron click flick, although this one is actually good. Directed with much creative energy by music video vet Marc Webb, it's definitely a picture with its heart in the right place and a pretty good feel for many ups and down of young love. It's also got a sense of whimsy to it that I liked in the end, though I suspect others won't take to it, working overtime to throw caution to the wind and be a film that captures a feeling more than a thought, and it's admirable in how sincere it is in trying to do that. More than just getting you to remember what it's like to fall in love and have your heart broken, 500 DAYS OF SUMMER wants you under its spell so it can do that to you, too, and its secret weapon is, no surprise, Zooey Deschanel, and no surprise, it worked on me, though I guess I'm a sucker for it.
Still, 500 DAYS OF SUMMER may not perhaps be a defining film of its generation but it is one that the generation can certainly be proud of. But it does seem to catch the spirit of the moment, at least as best as I can summarize, feeling like a 2009 kinda movie through and through, though I hope that doesn't date it in another 5 to 10 years. And Zooey (we're on a first name basis now) is a vital part of that, the character of Summer being as sweet and lovely and bright and creative a young lady as one would ever hope to meet and fall in love with. Perhaps the character of Summer isn't anywhere close to the real Zooey Deschanel, but it doesn't matter. The real Zooey is indeed young, talented, and unquestionably beautiful in a natural and unforced way, but wherever Zooey ends and Summer begins (if they ever meet at all) it feels like the person you think she is or want her to be, which is kinda what movies are all about. No doubt Zooey Deschanel will go on to many more roles in the years to come and will eventually prove herself to be more than just the character of Summer, but for this moment in time, Summer she is and that's just right for all concerned. It is, in a sense, an ideal Summer movie.