500 Days of Summer - A Soul-Wrenching Masterpiece
Updated: Jun 3
I remember the first time I ever watched 500 Days of Summer: it felt serendipitous and it totally wrecked me.
I was in the 8th grade. Up to that point, I had never encountered anything that so plainly yet poignantly demonstrated something as complex as what occurs here.
It was one I was all too familiar with too.
You mix that with the raging level of hormones and it not being long after the death of my mother, and this movie was pretty much always destined to level me exactly where my skinny white ass stood... and it did.
To love is to wear rose-tinted glasses. To love is to sometimes believe whole-heartedly in an impossible truth but to do so shamelessly.
At some point during the film, Tom and Summer cease to be Tom and Summer. They transcend the characters both these simply lovely actors play and become archetypes. For viewers, they instead become a me and a you.
The truly wild thing about this movie is the coyly complex way it unfolds. There are so many different camps regarding this movie; often, the question at hand is reduced to a simple one... who is at fault? Who is the villain?
Some blame Summer and generally pity Tom. They accuse of her leading him on or possibly of being unclear with her intentions. Some would even go as far as to accuse of her gaslighting or emotional manipulation.
I don't think that's true. I revere Summer in the same way I revere the utterly beautiful Zooey Deschanel.
I think she's truly good down to her core.
Who can blame Tom for falling in love with her? Not us. And in my opinion we can't blame Summer either.
This is a sentiment widely shared by both Joseph Gorden-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel as well. JGL even goes as far as to call Tom the villain. But, I don’t necessarily find this to be true either.
Tom is certainly many things. One of those things, at times, may be bordering delusional. But he is hopelessly in love, as is theatrically demonstrated by the scene below.
If love isn’t a spontaneous, choreographed dance to a Hall and Oates banger right in the heart of Central Park, I’m not sure what is.
I mean honestly! How viscerally real is that specific feeling shown above? It's one of the must human. It's pure, unadulterated joy. It's what the hopeless romantics call love.
I feel like this scene could elicit some seriously different reactions based on the viewer's current relationship with love: for the heartbroken, it would come across as a sickening reminder of a dream once believed but now deferred.
For those in love, though, it's like looking in a mirror and seeing yourself in that perfect, retail-dressing room lighting. You may see yourself in Tom because you too are in love (or so you think).
It's wonderful to think it if only for a moment, isn't it? It's a beautiful thing to be a Tom in Summer-time. It's a beautiful thing to be in love.
There's a lesson to be learned here, I think. It is one involving shrugging off fear and doubt and allowing yourself to be happy when the opportunity presents itself.
For some, myself included, love is great but it's also nerve-racking. The first people you love are your parents, and when you lose one as young as I did, you become familiar with the darker side much earlier than any child should.
Maybe it wasn't the death of someone close: maybe it was childhood heartbreak that pulled the curtain on the truly dualistic emotional nature of love. When you are young in love, you love like Tom does above. You love like there's always Hall & Oates playing from some invisible boombox of God's.
You dance and you sing and you fuck and everything is beautiful... until it is almost always not. Young love is many things, and just like for Tom and Summer, it is almost always also doomed.
Your heart breaks and it burns. For many, this is their first experience with the true depth of sadness, grief, and pain.