500 Days of Summer (2009) Review

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: July 17, 2019 (Last updated: October 29, 2023)
500 Days of Summer Anniversary

Today, July 17th, 2019, marks the 10-year anniversary of the undeniably charming romantic/heartbreak comedy 500 Days of Summer. A classic in its own right 500 Days of Summer grabbed the attention of both doe-eyed romantics and soft-hearted cynics in its frank depiction of youthful romance. When the movie debuted in 2009 it took some time before it won the hearts of audiences, earning as little as $834,501 of an estimated $7,500,000 budget for its debut weekend. After a devastating start, it wasn’t long before word of mouth from admiring enthusiasts began to gain traction. The tale of Tom’s feeble yet dramatic reaction to a ‘first love’ breakup won the hearts of audiences as they gladly indulged in the turmoil and intensity of young love and heartbreak.

Critics responded overall pretty well to 500 Days of Summer, with an average critic score of 85% approval on Rotten Tomatoes. Still, there were those who thought the film still recycled clichés and stereotypes of a good old classic romance just essentially digested and regurgitated out of chronological order. There are certainly some cheesy nods to the romance genre and the character ensemble may not be all that original (see Starter for 10 for example) but 500 Days of Summer owns an atmosphere all of its own. The movie works over time to sell the audience an authentically nostalgic vibe. Understated techniques such as phones only having retro ring tones and all of the buildings being built around the 1950s were used in 500 Days of Summer to attract a rather inviting classic/indie feel. The attention to production design, location and music are tantalizingly subtle in their delivery as it shifts in tone and color, consistently changing to mirror the atmosphere and mood of our protagonist. The good days are warm and bright, the bad are delicately constructed with the color blue, acting to ensure the audience are swaddled in the current mindset of heartbroken Tom (the blue also chosen to enhance Zooey Deschanel’s Bambi-like eyes).

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500 Days of Summer is unique in its perspective, told only from Tom’s point of view the audience follow him in an attempt to keep up with his hot and cold nature. Rather than a romance, 500 Days of Summer fits more neatly into that of a coming of age story. A refreshing turn away from the rose-tinted ideologies of destiny and true loves, it welcomed audiences to reflect on the reality of life and the indecisive nature of the human condition. 500 Days of Summer offered viewers food for thought, where once Summer played the villain we see that Tom slowly understands that the universe doesn’t work on fate alone. This realization for Tom is integral for his character development and consequently resonated with audiences around the world (as can be seen by the sheer amount of ‘How 500 Days of Summer Changed Me‘ vlogs that can be found on the web).

It must be said we can all relate in some way or another to both Summer and Tom; as a Summer we have felt the guilt and hesitation to commit to someone we just aren’t too sure about. As Tom’s we’ve felt the bitter sting of someone not feeling quite the same after we thought they were the be-all and end-all. Still, in whichever position we find ourselves, 500 Days of Summer perfectly shatters the illusion of perfection and divinity, teaching us to be a bit more realistic as we don’t let our heads get too close to the clouds.

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Overall 500 Days of Summer is complex and unique, exploring themes of devotion, adoration, and devastation in a classically indie fashion. Giving the audience a one-sided perspective on a break up allows viewers to walk the path alongside Tom as he struggles with his own ideas and beliefs about true love. Essentially 500 Days of Summer is a lesson in self-projection, on how we allow our own perception of a person dictate how we feel. By putting Summer on a pedestal Tom lives a fantasy for what he expected Summer to be, ultimately ending in heartbreak when she doesn’t live up to his expectations. So, it’s officially been a whole decade since this comically angsty, understated and heartfelt film blessed our screens and now may be the time you choose to revisit 500 Days of Summer. Indulge your youthful angst cravings for a bit of reality and denounce your sensibilities to recognize what it is like to feel hopelessly in love with the wrong person.

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