August 28, 2009

An Antidote to Heartbreak

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If there were any film to show how to get over someone, (500) Days of Summer would be it. It’s uplifting, it proves that nothing is meaningless and that, despite the fact that not everything works out for the best, end all is resolved in the end. (500) Days of Summer is not a typical romance; it is the tale of a young man, Tom (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who must get over someone who he has no desire to get over. In turn, by getting over her, he learns more about himself and, within 500 days, somehow seems to have a completely new perspective on life and his own destiny.
The movie jumps back and forth between the beginning stages of Tom’s relationship with Summer (played by the adorable Zooey Deschanel) and the final days of this 500 day period in which he seems to have moved on to a new chapter in his life. This seesaw effect is one major turn off I found in the film, as it made understanding the dynamics of the two’s relationship quite difficult to grasp. But Tom’s experience with Summer proves to be useful in igniting a latent desire to pursue a career in the field of architecture, something he studied in college but has put on hold while working at a greeting card company. She also makes him question his belief in “the one,” the idea that there is one person with whom he is meant to be. In this sense, Summer has an irreparable effect on Tom, but the meaning of this effect is open to interpretation, primarily because Tom’s changing for better or worse is not very clear.
However, even Tom’s relationship with Summer is confusing. This may be because of the way in which the director, Marc Webb, chose to illustrate it, beginning at the end and then showing various points in between (although not in chronological order). Part of the problem, too, is Summer’s rather confounding behavior. She claims that she and Tom are not a couple, but acts as if they are. When she reaches the point at which she finally accepts that they are more than friends, her behavior becomes bizarre or best put as “hot and cold.” She becomes isolated, emotionally detached. When seeing the film The Graduate, she cries as Elaine runs off with Benjamin. I think this reaction to the film’s ending stems from her personal frustration with not being able to love Tom the way that he loves her, or to give him the kind of personal commitment she believes he deserves.
But Tom’s self-assuredness is debatable by the end of the film. Although Summer has taught him that the idea of “the one” leaves no room for chance or coincidence, she also proves to be insensitive. Her own definition of love is rather questionable, considering that within six months of ending her relationship with Tom she gets married to another fellow. When Tom asks her what had happened, what has changed to make her want a serious relationship, she speaks of just finally knowing. It’s as if she underwent a personal osmosis overnight in which she was magically ready for love. This readiness to be someone’s someone came quickly after ending things with Tom, making it seem as if he was merely someone in between, someone who pushed her enough so that she was finally ready to take the deep plunge into the abyss of love.
In the end, though, the film shows how to make the best of bad situations. Although Tom assumes after his abandonment that Summer is a cold-hearted bitch (which may well be true), he soon realizes that she wasn’t the one, and that the entire idea of “the one” leaves no room for life and the spontaneity that it inspires. Instead of seeing himself as being used as a platform for Summer’s personal aggrandizement, he chose to see his relationship with her and her inability to love him as a necessary part of his personal growth.
But Tom might be the exception to the rule. Does everyone realize their full potential after the supposed love of their life stabs them in the heart? And are people really that cordial after said events transpire? I think the film romanticizes the idea of finding yourself in the worst of situations, when most of us know that those sorts of experiences are the ones we’d like most to avoid or forget. Take that for what it’s worth.