I was able to catch a showing of (500) Days of Summer this past Wednesday, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt (3rd Rock from the Sun) and Zooey Deschanel (Elf…at least that’s how I remember her). The general consensus among my friends was that the movie was pretty legit, so even as opposed as I am to paying $12 per ticket for a movie that’ll probably sink my expectations, I pulled the trigger. Here are a few thoughts. (Warning, I’ll probably spoil the movie a bit so don’t read this if you plan on watching.)
So there I was, sitting inside this little independent theater in Claremont. As the movie was panning through the opening credits, I was thinking, “Here I am, in a public theater watching a chick flick with a girl and 2 other dudes who crashed the party and probably wanted to watch Inglorious Basterds instead.” This could be a recipe for disaster–the girl might very well be emotionally distraught afterward, and the guys could possibly take out their testosterone-filled frustrations on me physically at the end of it all. But right away, I was impressed with the artistic direction and “vintage” feel of the film. Nice, the film has a chance and things might turn out okay.
As we begin, we are taken right into the daily routine of Tom Hansen (Levitt). He plays a greeting card writer in LA who becomes infatuated with the new assistant, Summer Finn (Deschanel). The camera is focused on him, so you pretty much see everything from his perspective/viewpoint. The plot develops as you see the two characters evolve in this friends/lovers/what are we? relationship, but since the film is shot anachronistically (non-linear), the audience is thrown right in the midst of the story and the conflict is quickly established; we know from the get-go that the relationship did not turn out with a fairy-tale ending. (In my opinion, a smart choice on director’s end to shoot it with this perspective, allowing the viewer to focus more on the details and cues on what leads to that unraveling, as opposed to the intrigue of the end result.)
Levitt seems a natural for this role, as he plays that nice, whipped “everyman” who’s had his hits and misses and wears his battle scars on his sleeve. Deschanel herself also holds her own as his love interest, an attractive young lady who carries a past filled with personal hardship and pains. She is an intriguing character–“charmingly elusive,” as my sister rightly observes–and her mystery is what carries the movie to the end even when Tom’s cards (no pun intended) are revealed from the beginning. They have a good on-screen chemistry, and the acting in this film is something to be noted. In fact, it might have made the movie what it was.
Quite frankly, the story itself isn’t all that original. It falls into that line of “boy meets girl, falls in love, gets heartbroken and emo” sort of genre. But when the topic of any work is love, it doesn’t always have to be. People are already hooked in. It’s the spin or twist or take on it that matters. And that’s what this movie tries to do: it asks you that question, “Do you think the ‘one’ really exists?” The answer to which lies deeper insights into our notions and ideals of love, whence they came and how that paints our whole approach on the opposite sex (and I suppose even all of life, if its concepts are extrapolated). Of course, the movie has its own interesting take.
But here’s my take: I believe and don’t believe the concept of the “one” both at the same time.
I’m not just saying this out of past frustrations and failures, but I state this as someone who’s coming to terms with what true love is and isn’t. Love (in the romantic sense) is an awesome thing, perhaps the greatest of all human emotions, but it isn’t everything. My last serious relationship is the prime example. We were dating for two and a half years, and I thought she was the “one.” We had great chemistry, interests, and mutual attraction. But guess what? As we evolved individually, our relationship didn’t. Towards the bittersweet end, we realized we couldn’t commit when the “he” and “she” variables in the equation were becoming so different. Sure, she had a lot of what I was looking for. But after a few months, after finally drinking the last of heartbreak’s bitter dregs, I opened my eyes to the truth: there are many girls who have a lot of what I am looking for! What would make her different from the rest? Is it the memories I shared with her? No–those are special, certainly, but couldn’t I build new ones with someone else? Is it her exceptional personality or talents? No–once again, there are tons of extremely cool and gifted women out there. Thus, I hastily concluded: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS THE ONE!
But then I thought about it some more. I think I came to some proper conclusions, but it still didn’t sit right within. And then I tried to approach it from a greater, bird’s-eye-view perspective. If I believe that God exists and has a perfect, better plan for me, wouldn’t that also involve someone with whom I would share the rest of my life? I honestly don’t know how that works–it’s always a hard thing to render free will and determinism, but what it did give me allowance for is this fact: God has made several potentially suitable partners for me, but the person with whom we decide to exchange our vows and commit to for the rest of our lives is the “one.” God says that that person is the one. Because at the end of the day, real love means commitment, even when the lubby-dubby feelings aren’t all there.
I grew up with all those false conceptions/notions of love too. Listen to one too many Kost love songs and this is what happens. But through all the pain, I have learned something invaluable. Love takes work, and like anything else you do in life, the more you do of something, the better you’ll be at it.
Anyways, just watch the movie. And let me know what you think. (If you’re a lady, perhaps we can even have a deeply engaging talk about it over some coffee. Just putting it out there…)