how to over-intrepret a movie: 500 days of summer

Summer Finn begins with very modern ideas about love and relationships, but a very vintage wardrobe and apartment décor. Is this a foreshadowing of her character development, a way to add contrast and highlight just how extraordinary Tom finds her opinions on love, or is she just repulsively hipster and bought everything at Urban Outfitters?

Both Summer and Tom's parents are divorced. Is this movie a way of illustrating this quote from Carson McCullers: “But the hearts of small children are delicate organs. A cruel beginning in this world can twist them into curious shapes. The heart of a hurt child can shrink so that forever afterward it is hard and pitted as the seed of a peach. Or again, the heart of such a child may fester and swell until it is a misery to carry within the body, easily chafed and hurt by the most ordinary things.”? Has the dissolutions of their parents' relationships made Summer's heart hard and pitted, while it made Tom's fester and swell? Or is it just another random thing they have in common like listening to The Smiths?

The only two women we get to know in the movie are Summer and Tom's little sister. Both of them are rewarded by the male characters when they act like “dudes”. I understand that Summer is meant to be unromantic, and Rachel is meant to be precocious, but lines like “Don't be a pussy” are total dude lines, and by extension make Rachel and Summer's unromantic opinions seem frankly more like the men around them and less like their own opinions held by fully realized characters. The dude lines don't really fit the rest of the character. The women come across as mere projections of females who reject the male characters and/or play minor roles in their lives. Oh wait, that's exactly what they are in this movie.

I really wanted to like this movie, and maybe ten years ago I would have. It's a great premise in that it's boy-meets-girl, but it's all about the losing rather than the getting. However, in order to feel the losing and really understand it, you have to love Summer in the first place. This movie just doesn't do a great job of making everyone who sees the movie fall in love with Summer. Instead of making her a real character anyone could love, she's just vague ideal for a certain kind of hipster dude.

1 comment:

  1. I would submit that the same thing you find in the female characters is true for the male characters: They are rewarded and seen as "good" and "right" when they act in ways that are normally reserved for women in romantic comedies. Granted, they are not necessarily positive female qualities any more than the male qualities Summer and Rachel are given... but they are there nonetheless: The obsessing, the overthinking, the inability to function in their lives because of a romantic interest, the breaking into random song and dance in the streets... Seem familiar? It should, because that's the female role in every other romantic comedy.

    I would submit that it doesn't matter if we fall in love with Summer or not. It matters that HE loves Summer, and then gets over her, and then meets Autumn.

    That's one of the (several) reasons I really do like this movie: It's refreshing to see the GUY be thrown off-kilter and be so in love that it rules his life, to see the GIRL be the one who doesn't know what she wants, to see HER learn something from HIM about what a relationship should be and how you will just know when it's really right and should force something that isn't completely right... For someone who watches and enjoys romantic comedy, it's a nice role-reversal.