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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 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.
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  • 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 Creator 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.
  • 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."
  • Cool Big Sis: Technically, she's a Cool Little Sis, but she sure does not sound or behave like a kid.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Dull Surprise: A common criticism of Zooey Deschanel.
  • Emotionless Girl: How the Narrator introduces us to Summer. Probably evidence that he's an Unreliable Narrator.
  • Epunymous Title: "Summer" in the title.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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: It seems like every time Summer 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, has sex with him and implies she was wrong and wants to stay in the relationship.
  • 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 — considering she's played by Zooey Deschanel and all — instead of a Deconstruction of the trope.


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 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / SplitScreen

Media sources: