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“(500) Days of Summer (2009) is a creative approach to the romantic comedy genre. An unidentified male narrator warns us early on that “This is a story of boy meets girl. This is not a love story.” The film is a story about love while it may or may not end the way we expect, it’s a more real, complicated, and a believable love story then any number of romantic comedies that we been exposed to. Most movies usually tell us that true love is possible with whomever we choose if only we want it enough. “Hollywood” likes to distort reality and put most romantic entanglements into a happy ending with a cute bow on it, this movie brings us back to the reality. The film deceives the viewers to believe that the narrative will be from both protagonists’ perspectives: Tom and Summer. In fact, it is told through its main protagonist Tom’s (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) perspective. The boy, Tom Hansen of Margate, New Jersey grew up believing that he’d never truly be happy until the day he met “the one.” His belief originated from early exposure to sad British pop music and a total misinterpretation of the movie The Graduate. The girl, Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel) of Shinnecock, Michigan did not share this belief since the collapse of her parents’ marriage. In referring to the main title the five hundred days is about how long Tom’s life is spent with a girl named Summer. This movie doesn’t play out chronologically, but instead jumps back and forth through time using flash back (Giannetti & Leach 2008, p.48). In depicting the relationships struggles faced by Tom , (500) Days of Summer addresses the main theme dealing with those small but significant moments between two people and taking a risk at love when uncertainty remains. Moments that can make someone wonder if the other person was feeling the same thing or if it was only an illusion. This is a different kind of love story but, not told in a conventional way about how our romantic preconceptions can cloud relationships and trying to understand the truth and nature of love.
This film is a work of fiction. It has a formalist narrative structure told out of chronological order and relies on flash backs plus flash forwards with creativity in nearly every scene. The Director frequently plays around with ideas from the visual to the aural. The movie at beginning uses a split screen look at the main characters childhood growth before they cross paths somewhere in time in the future at a greeting card company. The use of narration made you want to see the two main characters live happily ever after. The film starts on day (290) with urgency using non-diegetic (Giannetti & Leach 2008, p.212) music through cinematic images and sequences of a girl riding on a bike through the dark streets of LA arriving at a gated apartment to a visually heartbroken, plate smashing Tom. Tom retells his sister (Rachel) and friends about what has gone awry with his relationship with Summer. The clichés of the younger know it all smart sister, giving him vodka to loosen up in order to open up and retell his story about Summer works. He starts from his recollection of the beginning and what happened. A montage of happy moments between Summer and Tom laughing, kissing, holding hands, hugging and buying music together. Summer suggests they should stop seeing each other in a diner setting which is a cliché moment and this scene visually reminded me of when “Harry met Sally.” The mise en scene of his apartment reflects an educated, middle class, cultured person who enjoys reading and music. Another cliché moment is reference to “Sid and Nancy” Sid Vicious stabbed Nancy seven times with a kitchen knife. They have some disagreements but he hardly think’s he is Sid Vicious. She replies “No. I’m Sid.” Summer says the words that is death to all guys “You’re still my best friend!” We visually see Tom moving in slow motion after Summer says the word “friend” It is like the bottom drops out emotionally for Tom. This movie is filled with more clichés like “there’s plenty of other fish in the sea” or a recurring theme in many romances “I don’t want to get over her. I want to get her back.” The unseen narrator states “There are only two kinds of people in the world. There are women and there are men. He is reminding us of the differences between the genders. There are black and white images of a scene of shots or descriptive play by play on Summer Finn.
The director tells the story using his stylistic choices and including gimmicks from sketchbook-like transitions to an impromptu dance number and the Bergman inspired black and white film montage. A significant visual scene is shown, after Tom has sex for the first time with Summer. This scene represents his feelings of being in love, people smiling, life is wonderful, Tom checks out his reflection in a car window at the peak of his happiness and sees Hans Solo wink at him. The scene continues with the fountain exploding while the music is diegetic, the song by Hall & Oates’ ballad “You Make My Dreams Come True” is heard and ending with a dance number reminiscent of “Ferris Bueller’s day off.” The music selections are inspiring, reflective and the slow motion bits add to the nostalgic mood. The pure range of ideas keeps audiences not only eagerly interested in what is to come next but for the most part benefits the plotline. The creative vision gives the ordinary story a life of its own with very real feelings. Many viewers, who have experienced an important relationship, will be surprised in at least one unique way the film tackles its themes. (500) Days of Summer left a uplifting message about putting yourself out there and taking the risks and the hardships that go with them is the only way to find happiness.
A defining moment scene in (500) Days of Summer occurs day (259) when Tom defends his relationship with Summer at a bar and hits the stranger. Tom and Summer (alternating close-up shots between two characters) come back to her apartment where they break-up, the scene ends with a high angle shot of Tom running down a spiraling staircase. His life seems to be spiraling out of control. Summer eventually comes back to him. We see homage to Annie Hall in an art gallery. There is a black and white neo-realist or film noir of suffering in the shot of Tom consoling himself at a movie theatre. Day (154) The officially in love with Summer scene in extreme close-ups of Summer’s body parts hearing “she’s like the wind” by Patrick Swayze and the contrary scene I hate Summer, same shots as the love ones but dialogue is expresses the distaste for everything he liked about her teeth, smile, hair style, knees and her birth mark, not to mention he now hates the song “she’s like the wind” by Patrick Swayze.
The greatest use of imagery or editing is the split screen shot of expectations and reality a fantastic use of parallel editing (Giannetti & Leach 2008, p.186) plus the non-diegetic sound he runs down the spiraling staircase from high angle to low angle shot into the streets with a sketch drawing of his world fading away and he is standing alone. Day (450) Tom’s sister says “she is not the one, your just remembering the good stuff next time you look back at the relationship you should give it a better look.” Tom is inspired to move forward after the end of his relationship with Summer and starts drawing again. We see close-up sketching of linear buildings drawn on a blackboard in his apartment, next a sketch pad and jarring movements in fast motion. There are a lot of fast pace, movement scenes of the world around him. Next, we switch to a parallel/split screen scene with Tom on a bus expressionless and the other parallel screen of Summer smiling in the process of getting married. Another important scene is where Tom has closure with Summer at his favourite park bench scene, this is a medium two shot. Summer reveals she was never sure of love with Tom. Tom realizes love does not ever make sense.
The final scene in (500) Days of Summer is completed by answering the question fate does exist and there is “the one” or soul mate out there and you will never know when it happens. The final scene first shows a shot from a bird’s eye view (Giannetti & Leach 2008, p.72) inside a building with the narrator remarking “most days of the year are unremarkable they begin and they end.” Tom sits on a chair in personal proxemic pattern (Giannetti & Leach 2008, p.126) from a female interviewing for the same job. They both reply to each other “I hope you don’t get the job” in a medium shot. They then share a laugh. Tom appears to have a revelation coincidence or fate his pessimistic view is transformed upon meeting Autumn. Tom looks into the camera in a way to acknowledging us as an audience that he might be wrong and still believe in fate or “the one.”
In conclusion, the energetic art style and architectural look at the scenery of Los Angeles adds to overall ambience of the environments and characters in each scene. The story telling is in one way conventional, about a boy meets girl love story. Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) meets Summer (Zooey Deschanel), they fall in love, break up, maybe get back together, and then ends abruptly. The film is also unconventional in an indie sort of way. The storytelling is not chronological; there are unexpected camera angles, clever editing, split screens, variety of eclectic songs and combination of references throughout the film like The Graduate. It’s a film that embraces love among the ruins of a modern society. (500) Days of Summer is about how our romantic preconceptions can alter our understanding of relationships and trying to understand the true nature of love is not something we can truly define. “This is not a love story. This is a story about love.”
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