“You should know that this isn’t a love story,” warns the narrator of Marc Webb’s alleged anti-rom-com, just in case anyone dozed off during the precredits intro. Thanks to a willingness to randomly flip through a relationship as if the days were attached to a Rolodex, the film has already shown its couple—Tom (Gordon-Levitt) and Summer (Deschanel)—making up, breaking up and meeting cute in the first ten minutes (and in that order). He’s instantly smitten, convinced he’s found Ms. Right; she’s a commitmentphobe, well aware that the whole together-forever ideal is a sham. Soulmates or not, the twosome are destined to eventually go their separate ways. We’re just along for the slow implosion and inevitable farewell, doled out piece by arbitrarily selected piece.
But don’t let the compellingly corkscrewed chronology fool you: Countdown to Armageddon d’amour or not, Webb’s poison-penned mash note is a date movie in everything but name. The duo still court over karaoke, make like snuggle bunnies and giddily play house in an Ikea showroom kitchen. (Damning pantomime of prefab domesticity or extended commercial for the Swedish furniture company? The jüry’s still out.) Blessed with photogenic hipster-hottie leads, Summer never shies away from trying to make you swoon, even as it’s “subverting” a standard cinematic lie, and therein lies the rub. Scratch any cynic and you’ll find a romantic; scratch this movie’s surface and you’ll discover a typically tepid ode to pitter-pattering hearts dressed up in thrift-store chic and faux-edginess. If nothing else, it officially makes bittersweetness the new saccharine.