It’s close to the 10-year mark of the release of ‘(500) Days Of Summer’ and I got this weird inkling to watch it again after many years.
I used to love the film because of its implications that if you had a failed relationship in which you loved the other person with everything you had, and it didn’t work out, that you can start over with someone new and be happy. And yes, that’s still true about the film, however, after giving it another glance, I’ve noticed some major issues with it as well (spoilers ahead).
The film portrays Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) being desperately in love with Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel) when in actuality, it was toxic and obsessive. Not only did he have Summer on a pedestal with unrealistic expectations, he actually didn’t get to know her wholeheartedly, and didn’t look at the warning signs that this “relationship” was dead on arrival.
For example, Summer did actually express she didn’t want anything too serious, and even though Tom felt led on, she did put up a lot of boundaries that Tom ignored. The pedestal he had her on – which was considered the “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” trope, actually showed more of independent-woman-type qualities – wanting to be unattached, wanting to live her life and experience it, and not being tied down when doing so.
During the karaoke bar scene when she explains that she feels like love is a fantasy, she had not truly experienced love yet. The guys made her feel like she was weird because she wasn’t open to it – even going as far as McKenzie (Geoffrey Arend) to drunkenly proclaim “Holy shit, you’re a dude,” when she was just sharing her point of view on relationships. And while Summer was completely justified in keeping things casual and having a good time, Tom’s point of view didn’t match from the get-go.
Even though Summer did get deeper in with Tom than necessary (because that’s honestly what happens when people try “Friends With Benefits” – someone always ends up falling in love if they continue seeing each other), Tom has a very unhealthy reaction to their “breakup.” Like many people in relationships (not just men), his source of happiness in his mind came from being with her – and his possessiveness of her being his didn’t align with what she was comfortable with. He thought because she shared certain things with him – that gave him a right to possess her as a person. This is shown in the simplest of ways, including Tom fighting a guy at the bar for trying to hit on her after she had it under control, or telling her not to get a tattoo.
When Tom shares a list of things they did together (Holding hands at IKEA, Shower Sex, ETC), and she says that they are just friends, he screams at her that “she’s not the only one who has a say in this.” Actually, you need 50/50 consent to be in a relationship, and Tom was 100% wrong. After they “breakup,” Tom says to a blind date, “You know, on the one hand, I want to forget her. On the other hand, I know that she’s the only person in the entire universe that will make me happy.” – ALSO VERY WRONG. You cannot place your happiness in someone’s hands and expect them to follow your expectations. It’s completely unfair to place that on someone.
The only person in the film that makes the most sense is Tom’s Sister, Rachel (Chloë Grace Moretz), who is much younger. She tells Tom at the start of his infatuation with Summer that he needs to talk to her about where they stand before it gets too serious, and he doesn’t, in fear that it will ruin everything. He holds onto all these moments with her as falling in love when she’s not on the same page and thinks that because they like the same things, and they are spending all this time together, that this is going the direction he wants.
When Summer puts an end to it, and he’s a complete mess, his sister tells him “Look, I know you think she was the one, but I don’t. Now, I think you’re just remembering the good stuff. Next time you look back, I, uh, I really think you should look again.” So many people don’t look into the warning signs, the red flags in relationships – so when it’s over, like many people, he keeps chasing the good memories he has without looking at the moments where it should have been obvious this wasn’t going to work.
Fast forward to the end, Tom and Summer have a talk at Tom’s favorite spot in the park after Summer gets married to another man. She explains that Tom was right about love, and she was just never sure it existed until she met her husband. Tom, on the other hand, still emotionally wrecked by his own doing, doesn’t feel the same way he did about love, so they switch places in mindset. Tom then meets a girl at his job interview, asks her out, and finds out her name is Autumn, the season after Summer.
Though it neatly ties up at the end, the thing we will never know is if Tom moves forward with Autumn and if he has a healthier mindset and has learned his lesson. And that’s where I think the film fails to completely follow through: to show that everything Tom did or felt for Summer, regardless of her transgressions, is not a healthy way to go about a relationship. It more so just gives you the impression that Summer just wasn’t the right girl for him, not that Tom had a hand in his own disaster.
When I first watched the film, I felt for Tom and thought the same thing, he was dealt a poor hand and was led on by Summer Finn. But now, with everything happening in the world with incels, #MeToo Culture, and more – I suggest you take Tom’s sister Rachel’s advice and say “I really think you should look again” when watching ‘(500) Days Of Summer.’