For those of you unfamiliar with this film, it is the age old story of boy meets girl. But with an agonising twist that is all too familiar in reality and never really broached on the big screen – which is why you shouldn’t dump it into the pile marked ‘predictable rom-coms’.
The film’s tagline during promotion was, ‘this is not a love story’- which I feel is a little misguided. It is very much a story about love, but as I said before not the glossy idealisation of love that we often get fed by Hollywood rom-coms. This is an indie tragi-comedy that will leave you feeling a little bit jaded and wanting to listen to the entire back catalogue of The Smiths.
Protagonist Tom, played by Joseph Gordon- Levitt, falls in love almost instantaneously when he sets eyes on the beautiful and innocent looking Summer Finn at work, played by the ultimate indie babe, Zooey Deschanel. We get a small glimpse of their childhood and teenage years showing them to be the complete antithesis. Summer does not believe in love and Tom believes he will never be truly happy until he finds ‘The One’.
This revelation is where the true originality of the film lies.
For a change it is not the female lead that is emotionally driven, desperate for love and destined to get hurt. Instead, Tom is immediately infatuated and determined to make his and Summer’s relationship ever-lasting and all consuming. Even when she tells him, ‘Love is just fantasy’ and ‘relationships are messy and complicated’ he is still not put off by the brunette beauty. Recipe for disaster right?
This really challenges gender roles in film and offers the unusual perspective of the guy agonising over the girl and obsessing over tiny details of fleeting looks and idle chit-chat. Levitt’s character becomes irrational- a trait often given to the female lead- but at the same time he still appears, for the most part, to get the girl.
The relationship is idyllic and they appear to be two halves to make a whole. They bond over similar interests including British Bands, French film and a penchant for cardigans- it is an indie flick after all.
But slowly as the film progresses the cracks begin to show. They spend time together yet Summer refuses to dub their set up a relationship stating the ultimate ego killer: “We’re just friends”. Tom clings onto the hope that he is slowly breaking down her scepticisms about love.
The 500 days of their relationship is played out of chronological order which for me is the highlight.
It enables the viewer to piece together the story and spot the warning signs before lead male Tom notices them for himself. He later plays over rose-tinted memories again and realises maybe all was not what it seemed. This out of sequence scene view also shows the stark contrast of the highs and lows of romance and how quickly people’s feelings can change.
The best scene is born out of a reality and expectation scenario. Its ridiculously realistic for those who cohere to the ideas of romance and fate. Tom hopefully shows up for a party that Summer is throwing, but the action unfolds in split-screen, showing Tom’s “Expectations” and “Reality” with gradual, sickening deviation between the two.
Despite Deschanel’s character sounding cold-hearted the character of Summer is entirely likeable. She is aloof and cute in a way that only Deschanel can pull off. She is honest with Tom from the start perhaps showing that his naivety and belief in true love is the real reason he ends up jaded by his reality.
Zooey Deschanel gets a lot of criticism in most of her roles- and this part is no different- with many critics stating that she is awkward and unbelievable and that not enough is learnt about the female protagonist. In short, this film was a write off, with critics stating the film lacks depth or believability.
However I feel Zooey’s character is the beauty of the film. She is a closed book which could be argued as the reason why Tom feels she is something precious, to be discovered. He believes that she is his other half and is looking for affirmation from her character which never comes. I love how they have altered the stereotype of the female character, she needs no confirmation from a relationship and doesn’t reveal too much.
The film is cute, witty and has an ace soundtrack. Perfect for those pessimistic romantics out there who can relate to Tom.
Also, when watching check out the colour palette of every scene. You’ll notice the colour blue features a lot, particularly in the wardrobe. Directors wanted to pick out Zooey’s best feature- her blue eyes- and relate it to everything in the film to show Tom’s all-encompassing infatuation.
A great film about love in a way that we’ve all probably felt, but never seen on screen before.