500 Days of Summer has got to be my all-time favourite romantic comedy. Zooey Deschanel stars as Summer who doesn’t believe in love and Joseph Gordon-Levitt who plays Tom – a hopeless romantic who falls for her.
It’s an offbeat, quirky film which challenges the typical storylines of cliché romantic comedies. The film beautifully portrays the heartbreakingly polarising differences between expectations and the reality of relationships, often shown through Tom’s contrasting days of happiness with days of misery with Summer. The audience sees the relationship from Tom’s perspective and like him, are unsure, second guessing and hoping that it will work between him and Summer (and lets me honest, what self-respecting girl couldn’t make it work with Joseph Gordon-Levitt? But that’s entirely beside the point.)
I’d recommend this film to anyone who is tired of the cheesy, cliché storylines that come with typical romantic comedies and wants a more realistic and quirky story.
Continue reading for further analysis – WITH SPOILERS.
500 Days of Summer has a really interesting underlying theme about writing and how trying to frame reality intro a fairytale frame doesn’t quite work. Through an interesting combination of a narration, graphics and storybook like composition, this movie angles that the expectation of a love story is much easier to believe than the reality. The audience are as mislead as the character Tom is in this movie, I admit the first time I watched this movie I expected – as did Tom – that Summer and Tom will end up together in the end. Typical boy meets girl, boy and girl question their compatibility, then inevitably end up together. We ignore all the warning signs that Summer isn’t feeling what Tom is feeling too.
But as I have now watched it twice (okay 500 times) I see that all the warning signs are there. Even from the very beginning there is the authors note; ‘The following is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to living or dead is purely coincidental. Especially you Jenny Beckman. Bitch.’ Then the narrator warns us that this is a ‘story of boy meets girl’ but ‘this is not a love story.’
Summer continually tells Tom throughout the movie that she isn’t looking for anything serious and doesn’t want a boyfriend. She makes the point that love is ‘fantasy’ and Tom says “It’s love, it’s not Santa Claus.”
This underlying theme of unrealistic expecations of love is reinforced in Tom’s job as a greeting card writer, where he ‘puts words like love’ into ‘people’s mouths.’ When Summer breaks his heart, Tom quits and says a speech to everyone about love, which I believe is the exact same point of view the creators had in mind when producing this film. It is essentially the message behind the story;
“We’re liars… I say let’s level with America. At least let them speak with themselves…Let’s open it up. “Happy Valentine’s Day, Sweetheart. I love you.” Oh that’s nice. This is exactly what I’m talking about. What does it even mean? Love… It’s the cards and the movies and the pop songs. They are to blame for all the lies and the heartache. We are responsible. I am responsible. I think we do a bad thing here. I mean, people should be able to say how they feel, how they really feel, not some words that some stranger puts in their mouth. Maybe it’s not love at all. Maybe there’s no such thing as love. Maybe it’s… “galoogoo.”… It’s all crap. We make and peddle crap. And sometimes people believe in this crap. I just can’t do it anymore, Mr. Vance. There’s enough bullshit in the world without my help. I quit.”
By quitting his job and confronting the reality of love, Tom is true to himself and what he wants out of life. He is able to pursue a career in architecture.
One of the best scenes in the movie is near the end, after Summer marries another man and Summer and Tom bump into each other in the park. It’s the moment Tom is given all the clarification he was desperately looking for. Tom asks how could Summer not want to be anyone’s girlfriend but now she’s someone wife.
Tom: Like that’s what I don’t understand, what just happened?
Summer: I just woke up one day and I knew.
Tom: Knew what?
Summer: What I was never sure about with you.
And the audiences’ heart breaks with Toms. Summer continues to say that all her misconceptions about love were challenged when she met her husband in a café and proclaims “it was meant to be” and she kept thinking that “Tom was right,” it was just her that he wasn’t “right about.”
And ultimately, I believe that everything we experience influences and leads us to become the people we are today. Summer, disguised as someone that broke Tom’s heart, actually made a positive influence in Tom’s life. She made him see himself, to follow his aspirations in his career and eventually reinforced his position on love (just with someone else). And if it wasn’t for her, Tom wouldn’t have quit the job he wasn’t interested in, therefore he wouldn’t have interviewed for the career that he wanted, then he wouldn’t have met Autumn; the next chapter of his life. Her name is Autumn which signifies that Summer was a period in Tom’s life, a stepping stone onto something greater.
We need to see much more movies like these; storylines that challenge our perceptions and reflect a more realistic experience of society back to us.
Want more 500 Days of Summer? I recommend this YouTube clip, an in-depth analysis of the expectations/reality scene.