Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Movie Review: (500) Days of Summer

(500) Days of Summer starts out with two characters who have extreme and warped ideas about love, due to pathological childhoods.[1] Summer believes there's no such thing as love—it's a fantasy. Tom believes in love at first sight and "the One". Summer tries to be rational and explain away her behavior when anyone else would say they were in love. And when things start looking too serious, she jumps ship. Tom will put up with just about anything because he stubbornly believes that it must all work out in the end. He is also clingy almost from the get-go. Eventually they find each other and the resulting collision is pretty much inevitable. The more Tom tries to solidify their relationship, the more Summer squirms to get away.[2]

The story is told in a nonlinear fashion, skipping around to different days in the string of five hundred mentioned in the title (e.g. they show us day 28 and then jump to day 198 and then back to day 31). This was a nice touch and allowed for some interesting edits—especially the Expectations vs. Reality dichotomy. The casting and acting were excellent. The treatment of the main characters' beliefs is convoluted and hard to judge. Tom's beliefs and expectations about love are portrayed as the actual source of contention and the reason for the end of their relationship. But then Summer abandons her beliefs and adopts his. And by the end Tom's beliefs are being reaffirmed. On the other hand, not only do they never outright attack Summer's beliefs, but there is a tacit acceptance and even promotion of them for most of the film. But even though the filmmakers never condemn her, Summer is ultimately a terrible person: she does whatever suits her, regardless of how it will affect anyone else. She occasionally shows some conscience, but usually to spare herself trouble or guilt—not out of genuine concern for the other person. And it seemed to me that this was how the filmmakers thought everyone should be. But…maybe not given how the movie ends. That said, there are some truly poignant moments—despite the fact that I'm happily married, it actually made me feel again the ache of being lovelorn (whether it be unrequited love or quit love).

A few other thoughts:
  • There was at least one scene that I recognized as an obvious homage to The Graduate. I also think I spotted recreations of scenes from The Seventh Seal, Persona, Breathless, and La Strada.[3] 
  • The song-and-dance number didn't jive with the rest of the movie.
  • Tom's post-breakup wallowing phase was almost identical to the wallowing phase in P.S. I Love You.[4] 
  • Having Tom throw himself into architecture (a dream he never had the will to pursue before then) in the aftermath was, I thought, cliché.
  • There are a few inappropriate scenes.[5]


[1] For Summer it's her parents' divorce; for Tom it's a misunderstanding of the movie The Graduate and "sad British pop music". (On this hand they do a good job of incorporating "sad British pop music" into the soundtrack.) Ironically, when Summer sees The Graduate she interprets it the same way and realizes that Tom is not the right one for her.

[2] The tagline for the movie is "Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love. Girl doesn't."

[3] I can't say that I particularly recommend any of these, but I will counsel you to avoid Persona. It's trash.

[4] Read my review here.

[5] Before watching this, I would recommend you read the content reviews at http://www.kids-in-mind.com/f/500daysofsummer.htm and http://www.screenit.com/movies/2009/500 days of summer.html.

Image attributions:

Rainbow Flip-Flops is by alonis, available at http://www.flickr.com/photos/25798768@N05/2543185643. 

1 comment:

  1. Audiences never really learn why things didn't work out with Tom and his architecture career. He certainly seems to have the passion for his vocation during the film.