“People don’t realize this, but loneliness is underrated.”
So says the main character, Tom, in (500) Days of Summer, which I have to admit might be one of the best films of 2009. I just got back from seeing the quirky romantic-comedy, which manages to tip the tired convention on its head. Instead of candy-coating romance and real life, it paints (what struck me as) an incredibly realistic take on relationships and why they often don’t work out. Alright, so the film also had some incredibly zany “dream sequences” that can hardly be considered realistic in a conventional sense, but in another sense these sequences add to the believability. Without mentioning any spoilers, the main character does at times “see things” in his situation that might not be actual reality but are certainly his reality. One sequence in particular, beautifully portrays through the medium of film the inner workings of many guys brains (at least, I can say that I relate) in regards to expectations vs. reality.
As a guy and especially as a guy with Asperger’s Syndrome, I can fully relate to hyping something up in my mind for more than it is. It is terribly easy for me to over-analyze, to misconstrue, to read too-far-into, and to just make a general mess of anticipating what another person is going to do, let alone a girl who I am attracted to. But after watching the struggles of Tom’s character (played with a wonderful sense of every-guy charm by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), I realized just how much I empathized with him and his situation. It also made me realize that for all the difficulties I have with relationships as an Asperger’s man, Tom (as a neuro-typical) struggled with many of the same problems. Alright, so his relationship struggles were perhaps not as profound as those of Hugh Dancy’s character in Adam (a movie which I very much want to see, for obvious reasons), I was taken aback by just how much Tom misread Zooey Deschanel’s character, Summer. Aspies and anyone on the autistic spectrum may have a hard enough time interpreting social behavior and interacting with other people, but sometimes it can be poignant to realize that neuro-typicals don’t always “have their shit together” either. If this movie taught me one thing, it’s this: it doesn’t matter who you are, what your background is, or what life puts in your way – a successful relationship will always require hard work and commitment from both partners, and sometimes even then it still won’t always work out. Love isn’t easy (but then if it was, it would hardly be worth it when it happened).
(500) Days of Summer was made on a budget of only $7.5 million (if that sounds like a lot, trust me, it isn’t – Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was made on a budget of $250 million) and opened in a limited release of barely 30 theatres in the U.S. Only six or so weeks later, it has been given a wide release at well over 1,000 theatres across the country and has made over $20 million. It always makes me happy when small, charming, and unconventional low-budget films get what they deserve, and (500) Days of Summer deserves all the accolades it can get. Here’s hoping to a best picture nomination at the Oscars. I highly recommend you see it, regardless of what side of the spectrum you are on. 🙂