"This is not a love story," a voiceover cautions us at the beginning of Marc Webb's seeming romantic comedy. Ohhhhh-kay ... And as out-of-order scenes unfolded snapshotting the flirtation, hook-up, dating and break-up of Tom and Summer, I thought: "It sure looks like a love story, but maybe it's not quite."
Webb's offbeat film does depict a relationship, but unlike most romantic piffles, it's fairly lopsided. Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a gloomy romantic and failed architect working at a greeting-card company, pines hopelessly for the new girl in the office, Summer (Zooey Deschanel), believing her to be "the one." But Summer doesn't do commitment, though she'll happily hang out, with benefits. There's something refreshingly modern about the set-up -- if only Tom weren't headed for a busted heart, big time.
But who hasn't been there, and I appreciated Days' more realistic take on dating between compatibles (rather than the frantic rush to the altar by the hilariously mismatched). Too bad Webb felt it necessary to gild the story with scenes and set-ups that shriek of calculation for maximum box-office enjoyment. There was the trying-way-too-hard-to-be-quirky date at Ikea; the phony, movie-only characters such as the preternaturally wise pre-teen love-life adviser, and the extra-sad-sack friends designed to make the artfully rumpled protagonist look even cooler. (At least Summer didn't have the bitchy gay BFF.)
On the plus side, I loved Summer's outfits (though I'm a little tired of seeing Deschanel in this oft-played role of quirky girl), and thought Gordon-Levitt nailed his big break-up scene, with just his eyes, no less. But while I also liked that the action was set in Los Angeles' old downtown, even this got movie-fied: After teasing us with the city's less-explored authenticity, the final (and cringingly unbelievable) scene takes place in the Bradley Building, the distinctive go-to location for everything from Bladerunner to TV's Pushing Daisies to music videos and car ads. So Days is not quite a love story, it's true, but it's also not quite the break-away it pretends to be.