I’ll start by saying this is one of the best movies I’ve seen since my conversion to the gospel according to Garden State roughly four years ago. It has everything a good movie should have: good plot, great actors/actresses (including a guy who was in Garden State too, something I thought cool), and an awesome soundtrack that’s getting a TON of use from my iPod.
I’ll try to keep this brief, but knowing my track record, I’m not sure how well I’ll pull it off.
If you don’t know the plot of 500 Days of Summer, it’s a telling of the 500 days Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character and Zooey Deschanel’s character spent together, the days following their “break-up” from JGL’s character’s point of view, and all the emotions that come with love, romance, and heartbreak. As the narrator says,
But you should know up front, this is not a love story.
And it’s not. It’s really about heartbreak.
It was extremely easy for me to relate to JGL’s character, because this summer I went through a similar situation — not quite as drawn out, obviously, and without the closure Zooey’s character offers with “I think we should stop seeing each other,” which would have been nice — and I share many qualities with him (which I’ll address). Additionally, the emotions JGL goes through after they “break up” is easy for many people who have fallen hard for someone to relate to, I’m sure.
Without further ado, onward to specific things I love about the movie!
The beginning starts out with a narrator (who voiced a character in Avatar: The Last Airbender, which blew my mind) laying the backstory for the characters, Tom and Summer. I’ll just post Tom’s part:
The boy, Tom Hansen of Margate, New Jersey, grew up believing that he’d never truly be happy until the day he met ‘the one.’ This belief stemmed from early exposure to sad British pop music and a total misreading of the movie The Graduate.
Already, I felt a kinship. While I can be very happy and content with my life, I always have had a feeling I would feel ‘complete’ with a romantic relationship and the connection that comes with a successful one. This belief stemmed not from sad British pop music, but instead from my favorite Disney movies even to this day, Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid, and even though I see the major problems of the messages in The Little Mermaid, I know I’m not alone in this and I can’t really change it.
So, already, I’m hooked, and eager to see how Summer acts, since her introduction states that “she only loved two things: the first, her long, dark hair, and the second, how she could cut it off and feel nothing,” or something to that effect, and it’s not something I can relate to. I’m a pretty passionate person.
The first instance I thought, Oh my god, I’m Tom and someone’s been spying on my life! was when, after talking to Summer the second time in the elevator, he rehashes the short conversation and then moans to his friends about it:
“Me and Summer.”
“Was it ever on?”
“No, but it could’ve been in a world where good things happen to me.”
“Yeah, well that’s not really where we live.”
Tom: “How was your weekend?”
Summer: “It was good.”
–and back to the friends’ conversation:
Tom: “Can you believe that shit?”
Friend 1: “I’m sorry, what shit?”
Friend 2: “I think I missed something.”
Tom: “She said it was good, emphasis on the ‘good.’ She basically said she spent the weekend having sex with some guy she met at the gym. Skank. Whatever, I’m over it.”
Friend 1: “What the hell is wrong with you?”
Tom: “She’s not interested in me. There’s nothing I can really do about it.”
Friend 2: “You could just ask her out.”
Tom: “…don’t be stupid.”
For those who don’t really know me personally, I have a tendency to think the worst possible scenario when it comes to someone I like or am dating or whatever. It’s a terrible trait, and I hate it, but I look WAY too deeply into anything anybody says that could be misconstrued as negative. I’ve gotten much better at it in terms of feeling “threatened,” and rarely do now, but 99.9% of the time, I assume the worst about what someone I like has to say and how they say it. So, this was particularly hilarious and true for me.
The staple conversation Summer and Tom have (with the help of friend-whose-actor-was-in-Garden State) is a similar one I had this summer–
“So do you have a boyfriend?”
“‘Cause I don’t want one.”
“Come on, I don’t believe that.”
“You don’t believe that a woman could enjoy being free and independent? I just don’t feel comfortable being anyone’s girlfriend. I don’t actually feel comfortable being anyone’s anything, you know. Relationships are messy and people’s feelings get hurt. Who needs it? We’re young, we live in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, we might as well have fun while we can and save the serious stuff for later.”
Speaks for itself in terms of the contradiction of Tom and Summer’s characters and their relationship goals based on the narrator’s explication of Tom’s nature in the beginning and his actions to come.
One of the best scenes in the movie is unarguably the dance number. The morning after Tom and Summer finally have sex, on his way to work, JGL has a dance scene. Here’s the link — it’s hilarious and one of the top 5 scenes in the movie. And I’m pretty sure I fell in love with JGL after this.
Another funny scene is one in which Tom, who works for a greeting card company, is called into his boss’s office after his work performance has dropped due to the “breakup” with Summer. His boss presents a card Tom’s turned in recently, which reads:
Roses are red
Violets are blue
Fuck you, whore.
Pretty funny, because any guy put into the situation Summer put Tom into would probably have the same thoughts were they pushed to write a lovey-dovey greeting card. I’m not a guy, but I know as a very emotion-driven person, I could be similar.
The feeling the movie left me with in the end was sad. I cried at the park scene which the movie opens up with and ends the 500 days with (the last scene before the last scene — you know what I mean if you’ve seen it), and I grew hopeful during the last last scene. And that’s something a movie hasn’t done for me since Garden State, but in an entirely different way that that and with much easier relate-ability (which should be a compound word).
Anyway, I’m going to work on the paper I’ve been in the library intending to work on for almost two hours, but I eagerly recommend this movie to anyone. JGL and Zooey have amazing chemistry, and pull off the roles of Summer and Tom very well, and though the movie doesn’t have a happy ending (or DOES it? if you’ve seen it, you know what I mean). The music, like I said, is wonderful and I love the soundtrack; through it, I’ve developed a love for The Smiths, whom I’d never heard before (and didn’t realize that’s who Morrissey came from!).
I think the overall message of the movie comes in the last narration of the movie:
Most days of the year are unremarkable. They begin, and they end, with no lasting memories made in between Most days have no impact on the course of a life. May 23rd was a Wednesday. If Tom had learned anything, it was that you can’t ascribe great cosmic significance to a simple earthly event. Coincidence. That’s all anything ever is. Nothing more than coincidence. Tom had finally learned there are no miracles. There’s no such thing as fate. Nothing is meant to be. He knew. He was sure of it now. He was…
He was pretty sure.
500 Days of Summer was definitely worth the hour and a half it runs, and is a must-see for anyone who’s ever had feelings for someone ever. Whether you relate to Summer or to Tom, there’s probably something in the movie you can specifically relate to. If not, well, it will remain one of my favorite movies no matter what.