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Film / (500) Days of Summer

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"This is a story of boy meets girl, but you should know up front, this is not a love story."

(500) Days of Summer is a 2009 independent romantic comedy film starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel, directed by Marc Webb from a script by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber.

Tom Hansen (Levitt) works as a writer for a greeting-card company; Summer Finn (Deschanel) is a quirky young woman hired as his boss's assistant. Tom, a hopeless romantic, immediately falls for her; Summer doesn't believe in true love, and isn't looking for a relationship. They quickly become more than just friends, but while Summer doesn't consider their affair to be serious, Tom believes she's "the one", and wants something more. The film takes a look at their quasi-relationship from Tom's perspective, numbering the days and events that lead to its buildup and eventual downfall.

The film is now looked back on as a standout romance film of its time primarily through being an outright Genre Deconstruction, taking the genre's conventions and juxtaposing them with the realistic highs and lows (mostly lows) of a modern relationship, as well as the fractured way in which we remember them.

This film provides examples of:

  • Affectionate Parody: Played with in the "Expectation versus Reality" sequences. The Expectation parts follow this by showing what it would be like if it was part of a legitimate Romantic Comedy - what Tom thinks he's in: occasionally emotional, at times cheesy, almost always in his favor. The Reality parts subvert or deconstruct those, usually by Tom messing up a line, not looking as suave as he thinks he is, or even failing to act at all because he's so flustered.
  • Aloof Dark-Haired Girl: Tom and his co-worker friend initially assumed Summer to be this.
    Tom: That sucks. Why is it pretty girls think they can treat people like crap and get away with it?
    McKenzie: Centuries of reinforcement!
  • An Aesop: This film warns the viewers of what can happen when you put someone up on a pedestal as a romantic ideal rather than viewing them as a real person with flaws.
  • Ambiguous Ending: Will Tom find real lasting love with Autumn, or will it be another failed relationship? Since we only see them on the first day of their meeting, guessing in either direction is pure speculation.
  • Anachronic Order: The film begins on Day 488 and then jumps around among the 500 days as Tom (through the narrator) recalls them.
  • The Artifact: The flashback to Summer cutting her hair off in her teen years is a remnant from when she was conceived as having short blonde hair (you know, a pixie haircut) - as it would have been an Important Haircut for her.
  • Aside Glance: Tom, at the very end of the film, after finding out that the girl he's just met is named Autumn. It's practically a non-verbal Here We Go Again!.
  • Benevolent Boss: Vance, Tom's boss, notices the latter's invokedCreator Breakdown and makes him use his misery to be more work-productive instead of firing him. Still didn't work, sadly.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Tom starts to act protective over Rachel when she starts listing boy's names in her class.
  • Bigger Is Better in Bed: In the case of one of Summer's ex-boyfriends, who was subsequently nicknamed Puma.
  • Bilingual Bonus: When Tom and Summer are riding in a car and Tom asks Summer what they are doing there is a song in French playing on the radio. It is "Quelqu'un m'a dit" by Carla Bruni. The chorus of this song is "Quelqu'un m'a dit que tu m'aimait encore, somebody told me that you still loved me." During a lull in the conversation what is heard of the song translates to "somebody told me that destiny doesn't care about us. That it gives nothing and promises everything. It's said that happiness is within reach so we reach out our hand and found ourselves crazy."
  • Bittersweet Ending: Tom and Summer don't get back together, but he's on the path to achieving his dreams, she's in a happy relationship, and he might have a good relationship starting.
  • Blind Date: Tom goes on one with a girl named Alison after Summer dumps him; as he's still too distraught to do anything but talk about his breakup with Summer, the date with Alison doesn't go well.
  • Bluebird of Happiness: During Tom's Happy Dance with half of Los Angeles, a Disneyesque cartoon bluebird flies in and lands on his finger. And then winks at the camera as it flies off.
    • In a deleted scene depicting a more depressing version of this moment, a much less adorable bird flits around Tom's head, much to his annoyance. The bird then takes a crap on his shoulder.
  • But Not Too Bi: One of Summer's previous serious relationships was with a woman, but we only see her being interested in and attracting interest from men.
  • Cassandra Truth: Rachel absolutely nails the flaw in Tom's thinking before he and Summer have even kissed:
    "Just because she likes the same bizarro crap you do doesn't mean she's your soul mate."
  • Cerebus Call-Back: Done the other way round. Tom finds a card saying "I love us" and looks at it sadly. It then flashes back to inform us that he wrote the card inspired by his relationship with Summer.
  • Character Development: As the film progresses, Tom matures greatly. He stops seeing women as objects that he can project his ideals onto, and drops his It's All About Me attitude towards his relationship with Summer. He also is able to turn his life around, quitting his job in the greeting card company and pursuing a job as an architect, which is what he wants to do. His growth in the film is best illustrated in his final conversation with Summer, where he genuinely wishes her to be happy, and when he asks out Autumn without hesitation and doesn't get angry when she initially rejects him.
  • Color Motif: Blue is associated with Summer, which according to Word of God was done to bring out her actress' blue eyes. Throughout the film, Tom sees and ignores many objects with this color which serves as a Foreshadowing (see below).
  • Comedic Work, Serious Scene: The climax sees Tom's expectations of getting back together with Summer shattered as he realizes he's at her engagement party.
  • Comically Missing the Point:
    • Tom completely misinterpreted the ending of The Graduate as a child, contributing to his tendency to romanticize relationships as an adult. Summer, however, seems to get it, as she leaves the cinema crying and Tom just can't understand why.
    • It's shown fairly evidently in the script, where it is shown that after his college girlfriend (briefly mentioned in the film) broke up with him in a flashback by using a song he showed her as a metaphor (skipping the song that she used to like), Tom misinterprets it and tells her it's a "great fucking song."
  • Coming of Age Story: The movie is in many ways a story of Tom growing from being a young adult who is in many ways an adolescent (working a job he has no passion for, being naive about how love and relationships work, and even his style of dress) to a (hopefully) more functioning and happier adult who isn't as focused on finding love.
  • Commitment Issues: Summer appears remarkably calm about her previous failed relationships, chalking up their failures to "Life." So it comes as quite a surprise when she marries her post-Tom boyfriend within less than a year. You wonder how her lifelong fear of emotional intimacy will affect her marriage down the road....
  • Cool Big Sis: Technically, she's a Cool Little Sis, but she sure does not sound or behave like a kid.
  • Creator Breakdown: In-universe example; Tom writes increasingly caustic and inappropriately cynical greeting card messages as his relationship with Summer deteriorates.
    "Roses are red, violets are blue, fuck you, whore."
  • Crowd Song: A Crowd Dance, to be more accurate, since the characters onscreen are not the ones singing: the morning after Tom and Summer spend their first night together, Tom giddily struts down the streets of L.A., where he is joined by a crowd of dancers, a marching band, and animated birds, all set to Hall and Oates' "You Make My Dreams".
  • Did Not Get the Girl: The audience knows this from the start.
  • Did You Just Have Sex?: One of Tom's friends asks him this, not realizing that Summer is in the other room, listening.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: After Tom discovers that Summer's marrying someone else.
  • Drunken Song: McKenzie is absolutely plastered at karaoke and completely fails to stay on rhythm during "God Bless the USA."
  • Emotionless Girl: How the Narrator introduces us to Summer. Probably evidence that he's an Unreliable Narrator.
  • Empathic Environment: Through the changing seasons within the animation that ties the timeline together. Summer: Tom and Summer's relationship begins. Autumn: It begins to fracture. Winter: They've broken up and he's depressed. Spring: He meets Autumn and realizes life goes on.
  • Epunymous Title: On Summer being both a name and a time.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: When Tom at least tries to get over his break-up with Summer, he now wears his hair slicked back. Summer's hair is worn up when she sees Tom after their break-up. After she's been married she appears with her hair slightly longer and curled, and the fringe swept to the side.
  • The Faceless: Summer's husband.
  • False Soulmate: Summer, for Tom. She basically has to tell him to his face that she wasn't actually the one for him, despite his conviction.
  • Le Film Artistique: During his post-break up depression, the protagonist sits through a collection of European monochrome movies that strangely resemble events from his own life.
  • Flat Character: Appropriately enough, since we're only really seeing her through Tom's eyes, we don't know all that much about Summer beyond her taste in books and music. We know Tom's career aspirations and meet his family members and close friends, but Summer doesn't get any of these. Even in her professional life, Summer is defined by her proximity to another man, being Vance's assistant.
  • Foregone Conclusion: The narrator tells us right near the start, "This is a story of Boy Meets Girl. But you should know up front, this is not a love story. "
  • Foreshadowing: Summer has an art installation of paper cranes in her apartment, all but one are blue (a colour strongly associated with Summer throughout the movie) and the odd one out is red (Autumn is wearing red when Tom meets her). Guess which crane Tom picks to fidget with? Also an example of Colour-Coded for Your Convenience.
  • Fourth-Date Marriage: The entire story, including Tom's post-break-up depression, takes place over a little less than a year and a half. Consider how Summer spends less than half that time (Days 288-500). Most couples spend more time between the engagement and the wedding than Summer took meeting a total stranger and getting married to him... which suggests that her big Love Epiphany might be just another whim.
  • Freudian Excuse: According to the narrator, Summer's parents' divorce when she was young is the reason she's become an Emotionless Girl, unable to form any permanent attachments. But see also Unreliable Narrator.
  • Freudian Slip: Summer fakes one in order to gently tease Tom and to let him know that she overheard the Did You Just Have Sex? conversation between him and his friend.
  • Friends with Benefits: Summer resists Tom's efforts to put a label on their relationship; she prefers to enjoy things the as they are without an implied commitment she isn't sure she can give.
  • Happy Dance: Tom after his first night with Summer... along with everyone else in the street he's walking down.
  • Here We Go Again!: The film ends with Tom meeting a new girl at a job interview. Her name? Autumn. Day 1.
  • Heroic BSoD: Tom's response upon learning that Summer has gotten engaged to someone else.
  • Heroic Resolve: Days 456-476 shows Tom somehow starting to get his act together again.
  • Hollywood California: Set in Los Angeles; Tom, having trained as an architect, takes Summer on a tour of his favorite buildings around the city. This doesn't include any instantly recognizable Hollywood landmarks.
  • Homage: Specific scenes from Children of Paradise, Persona (1966), The Seventh Seal, and The Graduate. More generally, the films of Woody Allen, especially Annie Hall.
  • How We Got Here: The first day of Tom and Summer's relationship we see is Day 488, near the end of it — in fact, exactly two hundred days after she dumped him, and several days after she married someone else. The rest of the movie jumps back and forth through the five hundred days to explain How We Got Here.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Incessant.
    Summer: All we do is argue.
    Tom: That's bullshit!
  • In Medias Res: Related to the Anachronic Order, we see the effects of their breakup in the first scene, before we even meet the couple.
  • Ironic Echo: Because of the film's Anachronic Order, we often hear the echoed version first. One of the reasons the movie is in some ways Better on DVD. One in particular has them at a hardware store and Tom makes a joke about the uselessness of showfloor appliances, which Summer is apathetic over. It then jumps to earlier in their relationship when they sort of became a couple after an afternoon of goofing around in the same place making the exact same kind of jokes. One was cute and charming, the other incessant.
  • "It" Is Dehumanizing: A variant. A Jerkass at a bar who failed to pick up Summer saw her with Tom and lashes on him/them with this trope.
    Jerkass guy: I can't believe this is your boyfriend!
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Tom, ultimately.
    Tom: Summer, I really do hope that you are happy.
  • Just Friends: Despite being Friends with Benefits, the core of the tension between Tom and Summer is his desire to be more than Just Friends, and her desire not to.
  • Karaoke Bonding Scene: At an office party, Tom sings The Pixies's "Here Comes Your Man" for the benefit of his crush on co-worker Summer.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Of Romantic Comedy conventions. Usually (but not always) by the narrator. Usually (but not always) subverted or deconstructed.
  • Lemony Narrator: Certainly a mild example compared with the Trope Namer, but the narrator is definitely odd and quite possibly at least a little unreliable.
  • Love at First Sight: Tom's taken with Summer the moment he sees her. Summer seems to evoke this response from most men she meets.
  • Loving a Shadow: It's made very clear in the movie and by Word of God that Tom is more fixated on an idealized version of Summer as his desired Manic Pixie Dream Girl and doesn't see the actual flawed human being in front of him. Naturally, this blows up badly in his face when his inability to let it go leads to some painful heartbreak for him.
  • Lucky Charms Title: The brackets for the number (500).
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Subverted/deconstructed; Tom initially thinks of Summer as one, and pursues a relationship with her even though she flip-flops between being clear that she's not interested in anything serious and leading him on, which leads to getting his heart broken when she dumps him and marries someone else. Thus are explored the very true-to-life hazards of treating a woman as a romantic ideal rather than a human being. Arguably, Tom may have been a Manic Pixie Dream Guy to Summer, who tells him at the end that he taught her that love is real. Word of God on the subject:
    "Yes, Summer has elements of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl — she is an immature view of a woman. She's Tom's view of a woman. He doesn't see her complexity and the consequence for him is heartbreak. In Tom's eyes, Summer is perfection, but perfection has no depth. Summer's not a girl, she's a phase."
  • Master of the Mixed Message: From Tom's point of view, Summer. It seems like every time she tells Tom she's not interested in something serious (and despite it being obvious that he is), she immediately throws a curve ball in the form of hand-holding, kisses or sex. Just before she breaks up with him, she impulsively kisses Tom in the street. The worst example is when they have a huge fight, Summer tries to tell him they are Just Friends, he storms out, and Summer goes over to his place in the morning, in the rain, and has sex with him, which he interprets to mean she wants to stay in the relationship. However, from her perspective she is very clear with what she wants, not putting labels on their relationship and holding the understanding that things might change overnight.
  • Match Cut: In one transition, a happy, just-got-laid Tom enters an elevator...and on a later day, a depressed Tom walks out.
  • Maybe Ever After: Tom and Autumn. Interaction starts between them at the end, but what becomes of it is up in the air.
  • Meaningful Name: Summer and her possible successor, Autumn. Also, the names Tom Hansen and Summer Finn are a Shout-Out to Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.
  • Meet Cute: On (Day 4), in the elevator, between Tom and Summer. Also, on (Day 500) / Autumn: (Day 1), another more standard Meet Cute, between Tom and Autumn, as they wait to interview for a job they're competing for. The two Meet Cutes have something in common: one party was already interested beforehand while the other was oblivious to that person's existence. The first time, it's Tom who's already interested and Summer who's been oblivious; the second time it's Tom who's been oblivious (too caught up angsting over Summer) and Autumn who's already interested.
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • Between romantic elation and romantic disappointment. Repeatedly.
    • Tom's reactions to breaking up with Summer is both funny and heartbreaking.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The title and trailer imply that the movie is about the 500 days in the relationship between Summer and Tom. In fact, Summer breaks up with Tom on Day 288, and the remaining days document his attempts to get over her. Furthermore, most viewers of the trailer expected Summer to be a straight portrayal of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl instead of a Deconstruction of the trope.
  • Nice Jewish Boy: Tom was originally written to be explicitly Jewish, speaking fluent Yiddish and attending Rachel's bat mitzvah.
  • Obliviously Beautiful: Summer attracts many male admirers while simply going about her day, and she never seems to notice any of them.
  • Only Sane Man: Rachel, who points out that "just because some cute girl likes all the same bizarro crap you do... that doesn't make her your soulmate." To Tom's surprise but not the audience's, she's right.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Tom can tell something's up with Summer in the days leading up to their breakup. She's much quieter than usual, she ignores his attempts at joking around, she avoids physical contact, and she even bursts into tears out of nowhere (possibly lamenting the conversation she knows she must have with him).
  • Our Lawyers Advised This Trope: Parodied with the Suspiciously Specific Denial cited below.
  • Perspective Reversal: In the beginning, Tom is hopelessly romantic, while Summer does not believe in love. By the end of the movie, their dispositions toward love are inverted.
  • Postmodernism: Plenty, including the nonlinear narrative, the spontaneous dance sequence, the onscreen count of the actual 500 days, and one scene which contrasts "Expectations" vs. "Reality" via Split Screen.
  • Pursue the Dream Job: Tom eventually makes something good of his heartbreak, refreshing his architecture portfolio and applying for jobs at local firms. We don't know if he ever gets one, but he does seem to get a few interviews, so we know it's not totally hopeless.
  • Raven Hair, Ivory Skin: Summer's beauty and very dark hair have been noted several times.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Tom's and Summer's boss.
  • Red Herring: In a sense. One of the opening shots shows Summer with a ring on her finger. It turns out not to belong to Tom but another man.
  • The Reveal: At a party Tom already finds just about unbearable, he suddenly notices Summer's engagement ring.
  • Rivalry as Courtship: Downplayed; Tom meets Autumn as they are both waiting to interview for the same job, and they jokingly wish each other bad luck.
  • Romantic Comedy: A Deconstruction of the genre in the general vein of Annie Hall and Manhattan.
  • Romantic Runner-Up: The main character is one of these. While he was completely in love with her, she wasn't at all in love with him. The key theme is the difference between his expectations and the reality of the situation.
  • Roses Are Red, Violets Are Blue...: "Roses are red, violets are blue, / Fuck you, whore." Arguably qualifies as a Precision F-Strike, too.
  • Seasonal Motif: Summer, of course, who's fun but flighty and unpredictable. The bereavement card project Tom works on when he's depressed after their breakup is called The Winter Collection. The girl Tom meets at the end is called Autumn.
  • Secondary Character Title: While Tom and Summer are equally billed as co-leads, the film focuses more on Tom than Summer.
  • Sliding Scale of Beauty: Summer is considered World Class beauty.
  • Shorttank: Tom's younger sister, Rachel.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Shower of Love: Tom and Summer did this to emulate a porn movie. It doesn't go too smoothly.
  • Single-Target Sexuality:
    • Tom for Summer. Even on his blind date, he can't stop talking about Summer (albeit not exactly the nicest things, but still).
    • Tom's obliviousness towards Autumn, who had seen him before, but he never noticed her until they meet.
  • Slow Clap: Subverted; after Tom gives an impassioned speech and quits his job at the greeting card company, his friend and coworker McKenzie begins to clap, but quickly stops when nobody joins him.
  • Soul-Crushing Desk Job: Tom wants to be an architect, but he ends up at a greeting card company. Although there is no hostility in the office, Tom feels that his job is monotonous and boring. Moreover, he has no passion for it. The upside is meeting Summer. By the time Tom and Summer break up, Tom undergoes a downward spiral, and the final straw for him that drives him to quit this job is a boardroom meeting with ranting about inspirational quotes on love.
  • Spit Take:
    Summer: They used to call me Anal Girl.
    (Tom spit-takes)
    Summer: ...I was very neat and organized.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Very early in Tom's relationship with Summer, one of his friends teases him that he's one of these toward Summer. Of course she overhears.
  • Stealth Parody: See Stock Character and Wise Beyond Their Years, below.
  • Stock Character: Rachel, the absurdly Wise Beyond Their Years younger sister of main character Tom.
  • Stupidest Thing I've Ever Heard: Tom's thoughts about Summer's "PENIS!" game.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: The film's opening disclaimer: "AUTHOR'S NOTE: The following is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. Especially you Jenny Beckman. Bitch."
  • Take That!:
    • Parodied in the Suspiciously Specific Denial.
    • Played straight when Tom complains about a kind of fashion that isn't even present in the film.
  • Take This Job and Shove It: One integral moment for Tom is a disgruntled speech he gives in a meeting about how greeting card companies offer nothing but superficial statements that, by commodifying them, devalue the genuine emotions they're supposed to evoke, creating falsehoods no dissimilar from hyper-romantic films and pop songs. He tops off the rant by quitting and walking out, saying that "there's enough bullshit in the world without my help."
  • Teen Genius: Or rather, pre-Teen Genius; Rachel, Tom's kid sister. In her case, Wise Beyond Their Years by so many years that she acts more like a Cool Big Sis (see above).
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Sandwich: After Summer dumps him, Tom leaves the diner in a fury without so much as a bite of the pancakes the waitress just delivered.
  • Thinks Like a Romance Novel: Tom was raised on "sad British pop music and a total mis-reading of the movie 'The Graduate'", and it shows.
  • This Is for Emphasis, Bitch!:
    • "Especially you Jenny Beckman. Bitch."
    • "Better luck next time... bitch."
  • Time Title: The film takes a look at Tom and Summer's quasi-relationship from Tom's perspective, numbering the days and events that lead to its buildup and eventual downfall.
  • Token White: Tom and Summer attended a wedding of a co-worker (former in Summer's case) near the end of the film. The wedded couple and their guests are almost all African-Americans. Since Tom and Summer already broke-up at this point, they no longer count as a Token Minority Couple.
  • Tragic Hero: Both Tom and Summer. By the end of the movie, they decide to make their lives less tragic by going their own way, with Tom himself becoming a great architect.
  • Tranquil Fury: Tom, going through post-breakup depression, smashing plate after plate with a blank expression.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behaviour: Tom is notably creeped out that Rachel, who is a preteen, has knowledge of how relationships work (not to mention PMS).
  • True Blue Femininity: Summer most of the time.
  • Truth in Television: Applies to most of the movie, but the Expectations vs. Reality scene is so excruciatingly truthful that it's heartbreaking.
  • Unreliable Narrator: A lot of things the narrator says about Summer turn out to be, if not flat-out incorrect, then at least skewed. It's as if the narrator were Tom himself, looking back at the relationship from years later.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: The Anachronic Order, of course. In addition, the film includes throw-away allusions (including running gags) to Shakespeare, Magritte, Hopper, Serrano, Bergman, Wilde, and Goethe. Plus, you know, obscure stuff.
  • Wham Shot: Tom seeing Summer's engagement ring.
  • What Is This Thing You Call "Love"?: Summer is first defined through her seeing no long-term meaning in love, a sentiment that Tom disagrees with, seeing it as something very real but only knowable when you feel it. Through finding and marrying another man, Summer grows into and acknowledges Tom's original stance, although Tom has since moved on from it.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: Tom's pre-teen sister Rachel is possibly the wisest character in the whole film.


Video Example(s):


Expectations vs Reality

The film uses split-screen to show that Tom's imagined romantic reunion with Summer is not going to go the way he thinks.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / SplitScreen

Media sources: