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CST Throwback Thursday – Film of the Week

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500 Days of Summer (2009)
Photo: Fox Searchlight

Expectations v. Reality Scene

by Gia Doxey,

All right, all right. Valentine’s Day is over. We could all use a slasher movie right about now, but if you’re anything like me, love and relationships are always on my mind.

2019 marks the 10-year anniversary of 500 Days of Summer, and in all honesty, not one day has gone by without a visit from Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon-Levitt).

Whether it’s the argument restaurant scene about Sid and Nancy or Tom screaming, “I hate this song!” on the bus, this movie has been my relationship observation guide as my views on love changed through my high school, college and now post-grad life.

A main theme in this movie is closure. When we’re young, sometimes all we want is closure after a breakup. Why didn’t this work out? Can I help this person? What the hell happened? But in the final scene, you realize two things:

  1. There’s a cosmic reason a romantic relationship doesn’t work. Usually, there’s nothing wrong with the dumpee. Sometimes, two people just don’t fit. It’s accepting it that hurts.
  2. A romantic relationship will never work if it’s off to a rocky start. Summer said right off the bat she didn’t want a relationship. If there’s not a solid foundation, you’re going to play a rough 500-Jenga building crash down on both parties. Isn’t that ironic because Tom is an architect?

Bottom line: 500 Days is the heartbreaking yet freeing punch in the face that people’s values change, and we’re all going to say things we don’t necessarily mean. (Yes, including you). We’re going to do things in the moment, and we’re going to fall and grow in love for both the right and wrong reasons.

When Tom got into a fight with the guy at the bar and Summer said how “uncool” he was, that was a perfect example of realizing one’s values. Tom thought it was romantic because he protected his girl, but that’s the last thing Summer would’ve wanted. But crazy movie-like situations HAVE to happen like this so people can learn how they’d really react to them.

And when he meets Autumn at the end, do they even work out? Who knows! No one knows, and that’s the point.

Now, let’s talk structure. The vignettes are BRILLIANT. Typical dates: going to the movies, playing house and holding hands in Ikea, watching porn and having shower sex. These special moments pop into your head at random times, and that was a genius way to showcase how we reminisce in bits.

The expectations v. reality scene is brutal, and the Hall & Oates “You Make My Dreams Come True” dance sequence will be remembered as the most joyful, iconic scene of the 2000s and rightfully so! Weigh the good with the bad, add some laughs, and you’ve got a movie that is not a love story.

500 Days also introduced me to the Sundance Film Festival and the perplexing world of independent films. Now, indies definitely do NOT need “Sweet Disposition” or a Regina Spektor song in a transition scene or in the trailer, but this style with these two particular eclectic beings taught me to explore new musical artists to complement very specific characters.

The film’s screenwriter Scott Neustadter said, “All of our favorite movies are relationship stories. When they’re good, they’re the best.” Damn right, they are.  

500 Days puts a mirror up for all of us, and that is what makes not a good, but a GREAT movie.

The Verdict – 4 out of 5 stars