Tom: People don’t realize this, but loneliness is underrated.
Beware: Spoilers may follow.
Romance in movies take many forms and take a lot of effort. Sometimes they represent what we wish love could be while sometimes they show what love really is. And romance in movies takes a lot to make it work in both the writing and the chemistry between the two leads. This movie does all of these things and proves to be enjoyable.
The story involves hopeless romantic Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) a trained architect and greeting card writer who meets a woman who doesn’t believe in love named Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel). Despite being two polar opposites the two find they have a lot in common and Tom believes he has found his true soul mate. The two grow close together overtime. However Summer eventually dumps him. Thus Tom reflects on their 500 days together to find where things went wrong as he rediscovers his own passions.
The first thing that stands out about this movie is that it’s told in a nonlinear narrative jumping between various days of Summer and Tom’s relationship. This storytelling technique easily has the potential to be very jarring and distracting but thankfully that is not the case here. It provides a good way for the audience to piece together the story just as Tom does after Summer dumps him and by the end we understand the characters and their motivations. In giving a non-linear narrative the story works much more in concept of the journey rather than the destination for the audience seeing the important aspects of the journey through Tom’s eyes such as his happiness, confusion, and devastation.
The journey has a couple of clichés in it but in doing so paints a detailed picture of love: the good, the bad, the challenges the two face, the defining moments of the relationship and this case its end. Both Tom and Summer have completely different perspectives on love and even though they were entirely mismatched, learn each other’s perspectives and help each other become better people by the end of the movie. Neither of them are perfect characters and yet the movie makes both of them likable.
Levitt and Deschanel, both of whom have great chemistry with one another, brilliantly drive the story. Both are perfect foils to one another being complete opposites and their relationship is the perfect balance of realistic and fantasized. Levitt’s portrayal of Tom’s hopeless romanticism makes us root for him but the movie takes the time to show the depth of his relationship. He thinks he’s in love with Summer but as the movie continues we find he’s more in love with the idea of her rather than Summer herself. He only sees the good and not until the end does he fully understand the bad. While Summer is a beautiful, intelligent, and honest woman she only lives in the moment and rarely thinks about the future. There’s a wonderful scene towards the end where him and Summer are sitting on a park bench and Summer explains why she got married and Levitt’s expression in that scene doesn’t change but it still makes you feel the full emotion as he looks upon her and realizes the big difference between them and that he needs to move on. At the same time during this scene you truly see and feel the impact their relationship has made upon each other. Deschanel also gives a heartfelt and fun performance to the character of Summer. On the one hand it’s easy to criticize her approach to the relationship but at the same time we see how she does understand Tom’s perspective and does open up in ways that she may have not had she never met him. Her perspective on love could have easily made her character into this jaded cynic but Deschanel’s performance brings such a vibrant and spirited personality that challenges the audience when it comes to her side of the relationship. They learn from their relationship that love isn’t black and white but what drives them apart is that one learns this faster than the other.
There’s an entire scene in the movie involving a split screen of expectations vs. reality and it very much establishes the heart of this movie. Although it has some clichés in its storytelling the way they tell it and the way the movie paints the characters defies expectations of what you might expect from this love story. At the same it roots back to the reality of love in that it make people happy, sad, beautiful, and angry. Sometimes it can do all of these things at once. This movie fills you with emotion at every turn that makes it both moving, funny, and all around much more than a run of the mill romance.