No woman will ever satisfy Chuck Klosterman. At least that’s what he says in the first essay of “Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs.” He goes on to explain that no woman will ever satisfy him because everyone’s idea of what love is has been fed in large part by Hollywood and the media. This is bad because real love doesn’t look like Coldplay’s idea of love and this constructed conception of love is unattainable in reality.
I just watched “500 Days of Summer,” a movie starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel. Spoiler alert, it’s a love story. It’s gotten heaps of praise and tonnes of analysis already so I won’t bother saying anything other than it’s good. I will however rant about the ending which shattered all my hopes for the movie and dropped it from being awesome to merely good. If you haven’t watched it, you probably shouldn’t read this since other spoilers will be everywhere.
Anyway, Levitt’s character Tom starts off on Day One being a lot like the kind of people that Klosterman talks about. Basically Tom believes that there’s someone out there for everyone and he will find that special Hollywood love at some point. He’s an oddly relatable character, especially in the scene where he’s explaining to his friends how he knows the girl he’s interested in isn’t interested in him because she hasn’t responded to all the “chances” he’s given her. It’s sad but rejections suck and at this rate, the only way Tom is ever going to hook up with Manic Pixie Dream Girl is if she starts making out with him in the copy room. Lucky for him and in a clear indication that this is a movie and not real life, she does.
Unlucky for him, Tom’s inherent belief in love and soul mates makes him blind to the fact that Summer will never be on the same page that he is. He never realizes that she’s going to break his heart and on Day 290, she does. He’s a wreck and the movie goes through the relationship and ensuing break up, showing Tom’s naivete and how he deals with the break up (spoiler: not well). Eventually though, he seems to start the process of getting over her and in an awesome scene, screams at his bosses, rants about how greeting cards and movies made him a fool who believed in destiny and soul mates, quits his job and restarts his dream of being an architect. Tom seems to come out of the break up stronger, smarter, probably more cynical but at the same time, maybe more realistic.
If the movie had ended or at least continued going down that road I’d have been quite happy. I probably wouldn’t have written this post either. Instead the movie turns everything on its head (only five minutes after Tom’s rant) by revealing that Summer did find her soul mate and Tom wasn’t wrong about soul mates or love or destiny, just about who his soul mate is. The movie ends on a happy note with him meeting Autumn, presumably the love of his life, for real this time.
This movie really made me feel hope. The first part at least. I don’t know if Klosterman is right about love but I’m inclined to believe he is. What I do know is that there aren’t many Hollywood movies that deal with relationships that fail because of fake Hollywood love. This is one of the movies that until the last ten minutes does exactly that. Then, in a move which I imagine happened because the writer didn’t want to make the movie too dark, it turns on its heel and buys into the happy-go-lucky, love-will-find-you, soul-mates-forever bullshit that we see in every other romcom. Why? On one level I really hate this because if your audience is ready to get one message in particular, then you shouldn’t change your mind about that message in the last 600 seconds of the movie’s running time. On another level, I think that the movie’s message overall would have been a lot better if Autumn didn’t fall out of the sky and into Tom’s life. I want Tom to be happy but I don’t want him to be happy because the fates conspired to bring him and his soul mate together. I want him to be happy because he understands now what love in real life looks like.
My friends have disagreed with me. They say that the message is more positive like this, with him finding true love after all. Maybe the movie was really about Tom being right all along, of true love triumphing over everything. They have a point. I guess it depends on your perspective and what you want out of the movie. I want to see a film that’s like a Chuck Klosterman essay and doesn’t parade the standard Hollywood formula of love in my face. For 90% of “500 Days of Summer” I got that but the last 10% killed it. Stupid Hollywood.