If you thought (500) Days of Summer was a harmless rom-com, Joseph Gordon-Levitt has news for you.
Although nearly 10 years have passed since (500) Days of Summer hit the big screen, the film still stands out for its smart approach to being an anti rom-com.
For those whose memories are a little dusty, let us remind you of the premise. Tom Hansen (Gordon-Levitt) is a hopeless romantic in his 20s, working as a writer in a greetings card company. After spending his adolescence believing his life will only be complete when he meets the elusive ‘one’, he’s bowled over with infatuation when he meets Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel).
Having just started in his office as an assistant, Summer is smart, attractive and funny and the pair quickly hit it off. She is not, however, a hopeless romantic. Or, laboured with the belief that her life will have meaning once she finds someone to spend it with. In fact, Summer is fiercely independent.
And this is where the rom-com narrative jumps right out the window. Instead of falling into the stereotypical trap of - girl meets boy, boy screws girl over, girl is left needy and heartbroken - Summer is the one to do the dumping. Becoming cold and withdrawn, she abruptly ends the relationship while the pair are eating pancakes in a diner, thus cementing her role in some viewers eyes as, well, heartless.
Enter, Twitter user Emperor Justin. Tweeting about the film, the social media users wrote: “Still haven’t forgiven Zooey Deschanel for what she did to Joseph Gordon-Levitt in (500) Days of Summer.”
To which, Gordon-Levitt had an enlightening response. Replying directly to the tweet, he said: “Watch it again. It’s mostly Tom’s fault. He’s projecting. He’s not listening. He’s selfish. Luckily he grows by the end.”
We couldn’t agree more. Yes, there are times when Summer is difficult, because she’s a fully-formed character who is emotionally complex. Not an appeasing 1950s housewife.
Summer is honest about the issues the pair face and she sees the relationship for what it is. She doesn’t shape her life around Tom, or the idea of having a boyfriend, which is something he can’t deal with.
Tom’s wistful hankering for ‘the one that got away’, becomes obsessive, delusional and pits Summer as an unfairly cast villain. However, when all of that’s wrapped up in a glossy bow, it’s not as obvious on first watch.
We salute you Gordon-Levitt, for taking the time to pick apart a character from 10 years ago and highlight how manipulative that behaviour is, because obsession isn’t romantic.
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