I really wish someone had already written a staid, by-the-numbers-style review of 500 Days of Summer, because my review will be totally subjective, based on a prior viewing of the movie, and assumes that everyone has seen it, knows the outcome, and was thoroughly bored to death. I guess there will be spoilers, but come on, the title itself is a spoiler.
So vonCube, does the needy, nice guy win over the self-absorbed ice queen?
No, son, he does not. Snap! SPOILED IT!
Moving on. Released in September 2009, it stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Tom Hansen, a nice, trendy, somewhat needy twentysomething working as a writer for a greeting card company. Zooey Deschanel plays Michiganite Summer Finn, whom the movie is named for, who starts employment at said greeting-card company as, what else, the big boss' executive assistant. She is the child of a broken family, and so trusts no deep relationship. On her first day, he sees her, and they eventually lock eyes; Zooey, sorry Summer, is unimpressed. This is day One.
The movie opens with an Author's note against a black background which reads:
AUTHORS NOTE: The following is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.
Especially you Jenny Beckman.
Further research reveals that one Jenny Beckman was the former, unreciprocated college flame of screenwriter Scott Neustadter, who presumably wrote this movie as some form of revenge. So before we even begin this movie, keep in mind the kind of guy who wrote it in the first place; someone who spent two fruitless years of his life chasing the idea of a girl in a way that probably in no way accurately reflected how he really felt.
The first scene of the movie has Mr. Hansen being consoled by his ten-year-old sister, who probably already has vastly more emotional maturity than her older brother. She asks what's wrong, and he replies "it was going so well!" Cut to a montage taken right out of the pages of Stuff White People Like; him and his ironic, hipster beau shopping at Ikea; browsing vinyl records; cuddling on a sparse, geometric bedspread. And then, when they are both sitting at a late-night diner, no doubt after a night watching ironically bad movies, the dreaded talk.
"Tom, I think we need to stop seeing each other."
Followed by vague references to Sid and Nancy, Sid Vicious and all-night breakfasts. Finally, Tom gets up and walks away, while Zooey, sorry Summer, calls out the four words that chill the heart of every emo boi Weezer and Death Cab fan;
"Let's Just be friends!"
This, my friends, is Day 288. Which means this sad-sack, emasculated, needy Gremlin of a y chromosome spends another 212 days confirming the obvious; She's just not that in to you. (/rant)
Sorry. The movie then bounces back to Day 1, when eyes locked; and another montage, this time black and white, explaining that Summer Finn, while physically just another woman, was, in fact, not. Something about her was just so compelling; either to her landlords, who offered her rents 9.5% lower than average; customers at the ice cream shop she worked at, which experienced a 215% sales boost that summer; and music industry officials scratching their heads at the boost in Michigan-based sales of Belle and Sebastian, after she quoted it in her yearbook photo. Enter Tom Hansen, who believes that there was a "the one" out there for him, and it's immediately apparent that he's outclassed, mismatched, and thoroughly wrong in choosing Summer as his mate. The rest of the movie is more or less Tom coming to this conclusion, Summer indulging his needy latchfulness, including empty sex; and the inevitable breakup, in which Summer, after telling Tom that she never wanted to get married, announces she's engaged to some cro-magnon alpha-male she just met at the gym.
Irony abounds in this movie; Summer and Tom first connect when she hears him listening to The Smiths, which surprise surprise she loves too. Or when he tells his ten-year-old sister that they connected because they spent 20 minutes talking about Banana Fish, she retorts with:
"Just because some cute girl likes the same bizarro crap you do, that doesn't make her your soulmate, Tom"
Story of his life, and of every repressed guy who wears "know your mushrooms T-shirts. What is a relationship? Could he even define it if he had to? Where does true connection lie? All of these questions go, really, unanswered throughout the course of this movie, as though the writer himself has no idea; and sure enough, once she leaves him, he chats up another girl innocuously, who, surprise surprise, has a boyfriend. This movie has a knack of validating virtually every single cynical, borderline misogynistic complaint that a nice guy has about all the girls he loves from afar.
Time for a rant! Yeahhh
I remember reading a postcard on Postsecret once, where the guy said something like: "I see couples everywhere I go, and I feel like they all know something I just don't understand." Fair enough, frustrated single man sees couplehood all around, wonders why, probably secretly blames it on girls. Two lines down was a reply:
I *wish* I had the courage to not be in a relationship. I find it hard to be single for long, and I always feel like getting together with any girl who gives me the time of day."
The poster probably hanged himself that night. He is searching for the magic combination for a relationship, and here's this blowhard admitting that he's so flawed, he can't help but be in one.
I guess on the one hand, 500 Days of Summer tries to wittingly satirize the modern relationship; cold, privileged hipster grrl and soft, sensitive, nice guy male, both unable to break through the barriers that truly allow them to connect, ultimately finding fulfillment (in the female's case) with someone else. But I found that more than anything, the author's inability to truly understand the components of a relationship make this movie both sad, and ironically sad, in the sense that there will be a legion of nice guys watching this, sympathizing with Tom and ultimately refusing even more to address the causes of their perpetual singlehood, instead choosing to embrace the female-as-vile-temptress theme.
I suppose emotional honesty is what is the issue here, and I don't mean awkward 4 am confessions of true love through email. What I mean is, taking a chance with someone you like, or lust after, and making it crystal clear to them what your intentions are, and delivering. Three weeks after I met my girlfriend at work, I tried to kiss her, brazenly, even though she had a boyfriend; she shot me down, and it hurt like fuck. But from that point on, my intentions were clear, and she knew it; and everything we built since then was based on a deep mutual attraction. Now I'm not saying you guys should go and try to kiss every hot girl you see; but for God sakes, have some fucking balls, even though you've been emasculated in this ironic, post-ironic, postmodern society. Maybe you belive art has no value; but some things still do. And weakly chasing after someonone who is, frankly, only mildly attractive, because you are too afraid to let her go for someone else, is weak as fuck.
End of Rant! yayy!
Nothing sums this movie up more perfectly than the story of when Scott Neustadter presented his former flame, Jenny Beckman, with the script. Upon reading it, she told him that she totally identified with Tom, of all people; and completely missed the fact that she was Summer. A toast to the oblivious female!