PG-13, but it really teeters on the R-Rating. There's implied sexuality. There's lots of low-key language in the movie. But the biggest thing I noticed is how different the culture was. There's some jokes about being too PC in the movie. Men are constantly referring to women in derogatory terms. There were just a bunch of moments where I visibly cringed based on what was considered acceptable a little over a decade ago. PG-13.
DIRECTOR: Marc Webb
Gosh darn it, (500) Days of Summer! Because you have parentheses in your title, my formatting above just looks stupid now. What's the title? What's not the title? Why is it all bookended like that? This is all going to affect my blog entry in a negative way. Take that, The Amazing Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man 2's Marc Webb!
Real background for this movie: When I was still teaching the film class, my first assignment was to make a chart of my students' favorite movies with explanations of why their movie was supercool. It gave me some touchstones to use when discussing film techniques, which went a long way to simplifying ideas. I also liked to see when a students' movie tastes changed due to the course of the film. (I rarely tried to change their minds about movies, but I did often comment on The Green Hornet being someone's number one film.) One of my students, Number-One-with-a-Bullet was (500) Days of Summer. Every project somehow referred to this movie, usually as a central means of support for an argument. Now, I had seen this movie before. I even remember being kind of impressed by it. There's even a chance that an old Flixster account has an entry by me (probably containing far more offensive language) (Also note: Flixster is now very different than it used to be.) about this movie.
But I saw this movie in 2009. In 2009, I was super happy. I had just started dating the woman who would become my wife. I started my teaching profession. I had slipped out of that stage of arrested development and found purpose for my life. 2009 was a great year. So did I want to be watching a movie telling me how miserable relationships can make you? Listen, I hear my student instantly chiming in, talking about how I completely missed the point of the film and that relationships are celebrated in this movie. I firmly disagree that Webb effectively communicates this idea. The closest I think that he gets is the notion that relationships are not always rainbows and sunshine, but rather a combination of neuroses and hang-ups that may or may not lead to you finding the one.
I had a stack of movies that really spoke to the inner cynic for years. See, before 2009, dating was terrible. Finding the right person in your life definitely shifts how you view everything. It's not to say that everything in my marriage is always about happiness. That would be crazy. But I would say that my wife has made my life infinitely better. So this stack of movies, which would include High Fidelity, The Science of Sleep, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, would absolutely reaffirm my cynicism for years. Now, these films are good films. I would put (500) Days of Summer on this list as well. These are all good movies. It's just that...many of these movies don't speak to me any more like they used to. Eternal Sunshine, that's something special. It still might be my favorite movie. But there's also so little to relate to that it almost becomes a form of voyeurism. "Look at those sad people," I'd say. "Aren't they sad?" And that's probably a very snooty way to look at unhappiness.
But there's probably one thing that is very common in all of these stories: they are very clearly and loudly written by men. I used to find this praiseworthy. I would consider these men heroes, talking about their feelings and talking about feelings that I would share with these people. Women were the worst and can't a good guy just catch a break. Tom is a good guy. He is nice. He works hard on the relationship. Sure, he calls the girl he likes the b-word (again, very dated) when she doesn't reciprocate his feelings. And now, looking back, I can't help but read the film without a sense of entitlement. Tom and his friends are entitled punks who actually have it pretty good in life. One of the more tone deaf elements of the film is how the movie portrays the life of Summer. The movie shows how Summer is this unicorn. Everyone in the world wants Summer. This has always been the case. But the movie also implies that Summer is completely ignorant to that fact. Instead of viewing this as a problem, considering that Summer is ogled everywhere she goes, it is something that makes her special. So the fact that Summer might have agency is almost completely lost on Tom. There's a hint of that in the movie, but only a hint. Summer likes Tom of her own free will. Okay, that's cool. But Tom assumes that, when he receives even the slightest invitation to come into her life, that it means that he has to pursue her romantically.
Eventually, the movie will get to this point. When Summer invites him to the party towards the end of the 500 days, his expectations are absurd. The problem is, by this point, I think I dislike Summer too. There's a scene where Tom is on a blind date post-Summer. It goes comically bad and the date says, after Tom bemoans Summer's behavior, that he didn't have it that bad. She was up-front with him about her expectations. She didn't cheat on him and wasn't abusive. The commentary is "Well, what was wrong?" I applaud the writers and the directors for at least exploring this avenue. Tom's obsession with Summer was toxic and he did have it better than he made it out to be. But on the other end of the scale, that's one of the places that Summer kind of sucked. Summer's justification of her aloofness gave her too much power. Because she refused to let herself be vulnerable around Tom, there was no chance that the relationship was going to grow naturally. It wasn't mutually beneficial. It is an example of Summer trying to get what she wants versus what they want together. I suppose I could accuse Tom of the same thing, but there's no way for that to be a joint issue. There's no compromise there and it's a little bit uncomfortable.
Then there's the idea that Summer is completely aware that she's keeping Tom on the hook. The wedding scene is kind of gross all around. It makes sense that he has unreasonable expectations when she's being secretive around him. And there's no real way for Tom to not have unreasonable expectations when arriving to the party. He has made his intentions with Summer very clear. She's so adamant that the two of them are friends that she intentionally avoids telling him about a fiancé? It's because Summer likes being liked. Now, I'm kind of backpedaling here and being gross, but that's where my commentary comes back into play. The male authors and the male director don't really make Tom out to be that bad of a guy. Instead, anything that goes wrong with the relationship is Summer's fault. There's a line in there where Tom is encouraged to turn his pain into art. While that's a good idea, I don't think the script, whatever it was based on, is anything near being objective. If anything, this feels like a Facebook public breakup. The authors are moving on through art, but it does kind of leave the Summers of the world to fend for themselves with an unfinished narrative. There are moments where the creators seem to be gracious with Tom's spiraling, but it probably doesn't get anywhere close to the truth of the situation.
But in terms of moviemaking, (500) Days of Summer is pretty. It's everything I love out of indie romantic comedy. Sure, I'll always love Zooey Deschanel's Jessica Day from New Girl more than Summer, but I get the idea behind idolizing someone. The movie, with its music and imagery, sells the concept of a fun relationship well. Summer, in some ways, becomes the ideal girl. Yeah, I would probably be annoyed by her pretty quickly. But the filmmakers have given her taste and just the right amount of twee to make this a great love story. Yeah, I don't love that it is super-broey in its creation, but that doesn't detract from Marc Webb's vision for the film.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.