Written by Jennie
To call (500) Days of Summer a romantic comedy may be slightly misleading; after all, very early in the film, the narrator warns the viewer: “This is not a love story.” Though that in itself is not exactly true; it is the story of how Tom falls in love with Summer, but Summer doesn’t love him back, at least not enough, and breaks up with him, breaking his heart.
(500) Days of Summer could perhaps better be termed a coming-of-age tale. Tom Hansen is young(ish), good-looking and funny, but some unspecified lack of confidence finds him floating a bit, not using his degree in architecture but instead working for a greeting card company. There he meets Summer Finn, and instantly falls hard. Tom is one of those old-fashioned souls who believes in True Love and soulmates. It’s unfortunate then, that in this respect, Tom and Summer are not well matched: Summer does not believe in love, commitment or permanency. Nevertheless, Tom and Summer do get together, and find themselves well-suited in a lot of other ways. At first it’s all bliss and joy and acting silly in Ikea, but then, as with many an impermanent love story, things start to go south. Tom, fervently believing that Summer is The One, does not even consider giving up, but Summer, who likens their relationship to that of Sid Vicious and his girlfriend Nancy (but has to clarify for him that she is Sid in this scenario), sees no reason to hold onto a relationship that is not making either of them happy.
This was a pretty interesting film; it could be seen as a cynical take on the typical rom-com, where love conquers all, but I prefer to think of it as a more realistic version. Tom is hurt and heartbroken and angry after being dumped, but as a blind date points out to him, Summer never lied to him. Sure, she’s screwed up (by her parents’ divorce, apparently), but Tom is too – he falls in “love” with Summer without even knowing her. Though the story is told from Tom’s point of view, and thus at times Summer does seem callous, by the end it’s clear that there are no heroes or villains – just ordinary people struggling to reconcile reality with their expectations (this in fact is cleverly illustrated by a split-screen scene of Tom’s imaginary take on his joyous reunion with Summer when she impulsively invites him to a party she’s throwing, and the way the party actually goes).
What I liked best about (500) Days of Summer, besides the excellent performances by the leads, Joseph Gordon-Leavitt and Zooey Deschanel, was its unusual structure and a few quirky storytelling flourishes (such as the above-mentioned scene). The story is more or less linear, but sometimes does jump backward or forward, preceded by a title card indicating that it’s, say, “Day 351”.
The film ends on a hopeful note, though in retrospect, it occurred to me that it could be interpreted more than one way – on the one hand, Tom does seem to grow a bit and makes some choices to move forward in his life. On the other hand, there’s the suggestion that he may not have learned his lesson when it comes to love. I guess your take on the movie will depend on whether you’re more of a Tom or a Summer in your outlook on true and lasting love. Either way, I do recommend (500) Days of Summer.