Directed by: Marc Webb
Written by: Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel, Geoffrey Arend, Chloë Grace Moretz
Sometimes ending up with a particular person is not meant to be no matter how much we fight against it. A reality that comes crashing down on our protagonist as we experience this nonlinear film that shows that this couple will not end up together. Even when knowing the outcome, 500 Days of Summer still provides a story worth telling, as it provides a new way of looking at characters in a romance.
While working at a greeting card company, Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) meets Summer (Zooey Deschanel) and they strike up an unconventional romance. They share conflicting ideas about love and Summer remains convinced that they will not be together and Tom strongly disagrees. The rest of the film follows different segments of the relationship to tell their complete story.
While enjoying 500 Days of Summer for its narrative structure, which does become the main draw, I find the discussion about the two characters much more fascinating. Tom, as a character, serves as the protagonist and the person the audience should connect to, but his behavior starts to get wonky. He has an immediate attraction for Summer and tries his best to cultivate their relationship as they have discussions about love and what they mean to each other. Through much of the story, it almost feels like he pushes his ideas of love onto her when she clearly states her opinion from the very beginning. While we should feel for Tom, as a character, he has issues to work through and this film had luck with having Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the lead role. He has that underdog spirit that makes him someone to root for as he displayed in 10 Things I Hate About You and The Dark Knight Rises. If Tom did not have someone like Gordon-Levitt portraying him, I wholeheartedly believe the sentiments towards him would be much different than what the narrative attempts to construct.
That leads to Zooey Deschanel as Summer Finn, who might be the case of purposefully harsh writing by the filmmakers of the story. Summer, from the very beginning, states her intentions and has this aloof personality and distinct perspective on love. On initial viewing, she comes off very emotionless and the audience is meant to hate her because of how she treats Tom. How dare she treat him like that when he tries so hard? Upon further reflecting on the story, it seems like this film takes a strident stance on her character. The casting of Deschanel in the role contributes to this conflicting feeling the audience feels for her. Deschanel has typically taken on energetic roles filled with her demonstrating her comedic talent but the character of Summer feels so different. She goes with the flow until she suddenly decides not to. Summer goes against all of the characteristics female characters in romances typically display as she proves to be distant and non-committal, a character trait typically reserved for the guy. Summer does not owe anything to Tom, yet we feel that she should for the sake of the relationship, which makes it all quite conflicting. This reversal makes the story so interesting to me even if it goes against the wavelength the filmmakers were going for.
The nonlinear style also helps the film tell its story with more potency. Knowing where their relationship stands on day 237 makes everything that happens on day 75 all the more meaningful and put within context. It jumps back and forth in the timeline of their relationship to display the ebbs and flows of their time together. It all culminates into a party scene that ultimately plays with the illusion of expectation vs. reality. We all have those moments where we plan out how something will go, but once the moment comes, it does not happen in that way whatsoever. It truly works to sympathize with Tom and his utter confusion about Summer and what she represents in his life.
Even with its issues, I believe 500 Days of Summer still offers plenty to think about when discussing romance and how female characters are viewed. For as much as the audience should hate Summer, I found myself siding more with her throughout the entire film. It does feature some great dialogue between them as they have their arguments and fundamental disagreements on love. All of its pieces come together to create a story worth experiencing just to see where you land on this relationship and the two characters. I enjoyed most of it even with the incredibly cheesy ending.