Let’s overanalyze (500) Days of Summer

(500) Days of Summer (2009) is one of my favorite movies. I think it is one of the most creative movies about love and relationships in a sea of terrible surface level Romantic Comedies that tell us that perpetually single girls just need Matthew McConaughey to make some stupid bet that involves dating them.

I never saw the movie as an attack on independent women, that Summer was an evil force in Tom’s life. I always saw the film as a portrayal of those moments in life where you don’t see reality correctly because of your emotions at the time. Your emotions also change your memories. It was brought to my attention (via @HeathBenfield on Twitter) that some people see Summer as a vilified figure. I decided the best way to know the intentions of the writers was to listen to the commentary.

Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber answered that question right from the beginning. The opening credits is a split screen of Tom and Summer as children. They wanted the audience to see Summer as a normal girl with her own story separate and unrelated to Tom. Tom may be our hero, but Summer isn’t the villain. A montage of Tom’s memories of interactions with Summer play three separate times during the film. The first montage is completely positive and he can’t see that things weren’t perfect. It takes a long time for him to see that she was actually upfront with him from the beginning about how she felt about relationships and he chose to believe he could convince her otherwise. Toward the end of the film his third trip down memory lane is much different. He sees that things weren’t perfect and they weren’t really that happy. He chooses to focus on the hand holding and kissing that occurred in IKEA, and ignore the “I am not looking for anything serious” talk. He remembers that she smiled at him when he held up the Ringo Starr record, and ignores that she rolled her eyes as she walked away.

It is also very telling that his list of things “he loves” about Summer become the same things “he hates” about her. She didn’t change, his perceptions and emotions changed. The genius of the “reality” versus “expectations” scene is discussed at length as well. Tom’s disappointment is magnified because he had already decided what was going to happen that night without acknowledging if she seemed interested.

The bottom line was that they didn’t want Tom to ever look weak and they didn’t want Summer to be a villain. Do you think they succeeded?


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