A note to start with: the title of this movie is stylized as “(500) Days Of Summer.” I choose to ignore this because I feel it looks stupid.
500 Days of Summer is a movie that I frankly have no real objectivity about. When it came out I was getting out of a relationship, feeling really crappy about myself, and essentially emotionally poisoning myself. So when someone recommended that I see this because the lead character reminded them of me at the time, I took their advice. So I’m sitting in the movie theater, wondering what my friend was talking about, and I finally got it.
500 is a movie about Tom, a greeting card designer played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who falls for a new employee at his firm named Summer (Zooey Deschanel). The movie follows the 500 days of their relationship as they meet cute, fall for each other, fall out of love, break up and end up apart. What really distinguishes the movie is that it jumps around chronologically; at one point you might be at day 30, when Tom and Summer first sleep together, followed by Tom dancing in Central Park to Hall & Oates, but then the movie slam-cuts to day 400-something, when Tom is suddenly miserable. It’s impressive how the movie (directed by Marc Webb and scripted by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber) jumps around without it ever feeling like you’re adrift; the movie gives you just enough guidance that you can follow along easily.
Now, where I realized how much Tom resembled me at the time was his total inability to get out of his own way. He’s immature, he seems like he doesn’t even really know Summer that well, and so can’t figure out what’s going wrong in his relationship. In one of the time jumps you see him on a blind date with a woman named Alison (a great one-scene appearance by Rachel Boston) who, as nicely as she can, tells him that he’s being an ass and needs to get over himself. And what’s really good about the scene is that he doesn’t dismiss it out of hand; he tries to scoff, but he is aware enough to realize that yes, he does have a problem. The movie plays a really nice balancing act of making Tom a bit of an ass, but still not completely unaware and capable of change.
The other thing you realize about the movie probably about a third in…Tom is the viewpoint character, and only Tom, and that leads to some weird things until you realize that it’s very possible that we only meet the real character of Summer in one scene at the end. Every bit of Summer is through Tom’s memories and prejudices; this can make Summer seem like the epitome of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, except that for once, she literally is a dream girl. There’s a party scene late in the movie where Tom attends her apartment housewarming, thinking they might get back together, and the screen splits, showing a version of the night where Tom and Summer hang out all night, getting closer again while the other side shows the night where Summer ignores Tom all night and he gets more sullen and drunk. The thing is, it’s entirely possible neither version of events is correct and once again we’re seeing Tom’s memories through his filter. It’s a really interesting movie to look at that way.
I’d honestly like to see a version of this movie titled 500 Days of Tom; this one-sided dream-date take on a romantic comedy is very interesting and it would be cool to see it from the woman’s perspective (or the other guy;s or whatever; it doesn’t have to be stuck in hetero mode). From what I understand of it, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby (2013) is split into sections that look at a relationship from both sides, but I’ve still never seen that. But in the meantime, 500 Days of Summer is something that I find very special. I’ve spent a lot of time on the dramatic parts of it, but this movie is also very funny. I kind of wish JGL would make another rom-com like this; heck, I wish Marc Webb would (the Amazing Spider-Man diversion for him was a pretty fatal one). But if you want some more odd JGL rom-com work, check out his directing debut Don Jon. It’s about a New Jersey man addicted to porn and is very worth your time (and he ends up dating Julianna Moore!)
I will note that there’s two things about 500 that I cannot praise; the movie ends on an incredibly dumb name joke (Minka Kelly showing up as “Autumn.” DO YOU GET IT?) and Chloë Grace Moretz having to play one of the most egregious wise-beyond-her-years younger sister roles of all time. Moretz has delivered a lot of good work over the years but she’s given nothing besides wisecracks to work with. But besides those two things, I still love this movie and can totally recommend it.