Being that Marc Webb is best known as a music video director for top-selling artists like Fergie and Miley Cyrus, and critical darlings like Regina Spector, it makes perfect sense that music is an integral part of his first feature film, the simply delightful 500 Days of Summer. In the vein of Garden State, this hipster love story uses music to illustrate the young protagonist’s moods, in this case, Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who has a pop-song philosophy on love that is executed in sonic perfection on screen. Unfortunately, the film’s soundtrack falls a bit short.
Featuring acts as varied as folk-rock duo Simon and Garfunkel, Australian hard-rock outfit Wolfmother and the first lady of France, singer-songwriter Carla Bruni (whose track is sung in French), it plays like a schizophrenic mix tape, with no real rhyme or reason behind the incongruous artists picked other than their penchant for gooey love songs. Which might be fine for a personal mix tape, but is disappointing for the soundtrack to this summer’s cult pop culture flick—especially when some of the best songs in the film, by artists like Belle and Sebastian and the Clash, didn’t even make the cut. Thankfully a few of the essential tunes did make it, like Hall & Oates’ “You Make My Dreams,” which, in what might be the best of use of music in a film ever, plays the morning after Tom first sleeps with Summer, prompting him to break into a synchronized dance routine with total strangers.
The soundtrack further trips up on a common mistake of many-a-mix tape: repetition, with two songs by both Regina Spektor and the Smiths. And even worse, we get a version of Zooey Deschanel covering the Smiths as She & Him, her band with M. Ward (whether Zooey, Mark Ronson or any other overeager Smiths disciple out there, messing with such perfection is never a good idea). Luckily, we also get the original Smiths version of “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want” on the soundtrack, but we’re less fortunate when it comes to the Pixies. Perhaps there was a licensing issue, but no one’s really interested in hearing newcomer Meaghan Smith’s version of “Here Comes Your Man” over Frank Black’s. So you’ll probably be happier just digging out one of your own old high school mix tapes.