Marc Weber‘s (500) Days of Summer isn’t so much about a relationship that can’t work as much as one that the guy (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is unable to recognize as such. So lost in the idea of perfect love that he can’t see or think straight, he’s incapable of stepping back and regarding the object of his longing and affection (Zooey Deschanel) with even a faint degree of dispassion or clear-headedness.

This is frustrating because it’s obvious — glaringly obvious — that Deschanel’s Summer is a lady any self-respecting guy would take with a grain of salt. From her first waking moments to those slipping-into-slumber states that arrive just before sleep, Summer is a tantalizing but complex flirt, hider and head-gamer. Exotic, hot, spontaneous and obviously interested in nothing but whim. A girl who wants what she wants when she wants it and all that. An excellent candidate for one of those it’ll-last-as-long-as-it-lasts-so-don’t-sweat-it affairs. But otherwise a woman wearing a sign around her neck that says “I will stab your soul and turn you into an enraged infant if you seriously fall for me.”

And Gordon-Levitt refuses to acknowledge this and act accordingly. He refuses to look at reality and watch out for himself because he’s projecting qualities upon Deschanel that bear only an incidental relationship, blah blah.

And I don’t want to make too much of this being Gordon-Levitt’s first tolerable (i.e., less twitchy and self-consciously tilted) performance. This is a guy who’s approached each and every role he’s had since Brick with the following mantra/motto: “I am a weird and heavily mannered twitcho with pseudo-Japanese/Hawaiian features, and whatever the role and whatever the plot I am going to work my weird twitchiness into thy character and into the film. Because I want you to constantly consider and meditate upon my fascinating withdrawn-ness and apartness. It’s why I became an actor.”

So just because Gordon-Levitt has cut back on this tendency isn’t necessarily cause for cheering and champagne-popping in the streets. His (500) Days of Summer mantra/motto is/was “okay, maybe I’ll give the faintly grinning oddball thing a rest…maybe it’s time to switch gears or rotate the tires or use a different grade of gasoline…whatever.”