500 Days of Summer (2009)

A romance that starts with the words “You should know upfront this is not a love story.” is bound to be interesting and one that also turns the typical romantic gender roles on their head is just excellent. I could watch this film over and over and never fail to see new things in it.

I have watched (and studied) a lot of romantic films both rom-coms and love stories and this is one of the most interesting (and realistic). It isn’t simply – boy meets girl, something goes wrong, inconvenient partner, misunderstanding, moment of realisation and reunion/happy ending. In most romances the girl is lovely and the men questionable but this reminds us that for every bastard there is a bitch. Unfortunately a lot of bastards meet nice girls and a lot of bitches meet nice boys. It also makes us wonder if some* of our bitches and bastards are only bitches and bastards because they aren’t right for us.

Not only turning the conventions of romantic comedies on their heads 500 Days of Summer also takes a non-linear approach to the narrative. It begins with the couple already at the end of their 500 days and jumps around the relationship. There are great sequences including when Tom  (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) dances down the street to You Make My Dreams by Hall & Oates surrounded by dancers and even cartoon birds, taking a rom-com convention and escalating it (and including a great blink and you’ll miss it Star Wars reference – who doesn’t feel like a hero after a great date?). Another good sequence  is when Tom goes to Summer’s  (Zooey Deschanel) apartment with high expectations and the screen splits into two showing the expectations and the reality (to a background of Hero by Regina Spektor), an experience most people have felt and well represented here especially how it ends with a freeze frame turning into a black and white sketch and eventually fading to grey. There is also a great scene in the cinema which encapsulates how when you are heartbroken everything seems to be about you and your heartbreak.

It another break with romance rules is that it is Tom not Summer seen turning to his friends to ask their advice and unlike typical rom-coms where the women encourage the fantasy his friends add some realism. In one scene he says “It could have happened in a world where good things happen.” To which his friend replies “Well, that’s not really where we live.” His younger sister Rachel (Chloe Grace Moretz) also provides some great lines and realism getting him to remember  the bad stuff not just the good stuff. Tom is the romantic, sure that fate will bring him the prefect partner whilst Summer is the one who doesn’t believe, who lives in the now. In the end though it is Summer who shows that in fact fate can have a lot to do with it.

I have no idea why Summer  is motivated to behave in quite the way she does but then anyone who has been in love with someone (male or female) who is slightly absent like Summer is to Tom will relate to his mysticism over why she does what she does and denial that it will never change. There is a reminder from a girl he goes on a date with when she asks him “She told you up front that she didn’t want a boyfriend?” that sometimes us romantics can get a little carried away in the romance and ignore the reality. It’s the “He’s Just Not That Into You” thing …

Zooey Deschanel is believable as kooky Summer and Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Tom just the right side of emotional. You don’t wonder why they would have fallen in love but they aren’t quite right together. The fact they are very good friends in real life belies the fact that maybe that is all they were.

The only criticism I have for this film is that maybe the feelings of despair Tom no doubt feels aren’t quite as well depicted as the feelings of unrequited love and highs of requited love are but then who goes to watch a romantic comedy to feel depressed? It just wouldn’t quite chime with the feeling of the film.

I would recommend this to anyone. Especially if they have had their heartbroken. I think despite the non-conventional narrative this film will make most people feel happy when they leave which is generally the main requirement of a romance!

This is only vaguely related to the film but it is FUN:

This is the trailer:

*Some people are just bastards / bitches …


3 thoughts on “500 Days of Summer (2009)”

  1. I also loved this film. The greetings card slogans throughout really tickled me. Hadn’t thought about it the way you did – role reversal, change to convention etc, so thanks for giving me a new view on it!

  2. I love reading your film reviews Helen, I’ve not seen this one so will seek it out from somewhere…*checks to see if library has it…yes- loads of copies! *

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