Re-Watch: (500) Days of Summer (2009)

(500) Days of Summer
Director: Marc Webb
Writer: Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel, Geoffrey Arend, Chloë Grace Moretz, Matthew Gray Gubler, Clark Gregg, Patricia Belcher, Rachel Boston
Seen on: 10.12.2015
[Here’s my first review.]

Plot:
Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a hopeless romantic, just waiting to meet a girl he can fall in love with. When he meets Summer (Zooey Deschanel), he believes that he has found her. But since the movie is told in flashbacks, we know that things didn’t turn out the way he had planned: Tom only got 500 days with Summer.

When I saw (500) Days of Summer the first time, I thought it was nice, but I couldn’t really understand the amount of praise the film got. But since that praise kept on coming and since the movie was part of my film course, I decided to give it another try and see if maybe I missed the magic the first time round. Turns out I’m still of pretty much the same opinion as I was six years ago.

500DaysofSummer

[SPOILERS]

Here’s my main issue with the film: it works almost but not quite as a subversion of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope. It is obvious that Tom is unable to see Summer for who she is, that he is in love with that idea of her. That she remains a mystery to him because he can’t hear a word she says as she means it. But the problem is that in the end, Summer proves Tom right in everything he thought about her: that her cynicism regarding love can’t possibly be real, that she’d just need to meet the right guy and within a short while she’d see the error of her ways. The only thing Tom didn’t get right was that he thought she’d find all of that with him.

And if the film isn’ actually a subversion of the MPDG trope, what you’re left with is yet another film that is all about how a slightly geeky white boy is feeling and what he’s thinking and how the world revolves around him and his idea with no regard for anybody around him unless it relates directly to him. And it’s a film where women do remain mysterious. Summer’s inner life and her sudden change of heart are as underdevelopped as Tom’s sister Rachel (Chloë Grace Moretz). Why a twelve year old should know as much about relationships and life as she does (unless it’s implied that she, as a girl, has some kind of inborn sense for other people) and how it’s never seen as creepy that her older brother discusses his love life with her so extensively – those are just two of the questions the film never bothers dealing with.

500DaysofSummer1The only reason that kept me from completely hating Tom throughout the film is that Joseph Gordon-Levitt is damn charming and manages to convey a sense that Tom really is trying very hard not to be an ass, even when he ends up being one.

At least I can say that on second watching, I did like Summer better than the first time round. I never really hated her and I certainly never judged her for her decisions, but this time I just felt more sympathy towards her. And the film is still visually engaging and there are moments where it plays nicely with genre conventions (my favorite is still the dance scene in the middle). But I still don’t see why the film is supposedly so great.

500DaysofSummer2Summarizing: Could be worse. Could be much better, too.

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