“She’s better than my dream girl. She’s real.”
That is my favorite line from a film filled with a lot of clever dialogue, (500) Days of Summer. It’s spoken by Paul (Matthew Gray Gubler) to an unseen interviewer when asked about his long time relationship with his girl friend. He first goes into a long list of the ideal qualities of his Perfect Woman. But then acknowledges he prefers reality.
It’s a key point in this film, which, as its tag line says, “is not a love story. This is a story about love.” Or as the other tag line says, “Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love. Girl doesn’t.” The film chronicles the 500 days of a young man named Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) in his pursuit of a girl named Summer (Zooey Deschanel). Those days are not presented in chronological order, which is one of many stylized features of this clever comedy.
Tom believes in true love, and Summer scoffs at the idea. He believes there is one perfect girl that he will find and then all of life will fit together. Summer is just looking for a good time. Tom becomes convinced that Summer is his perfect girl and that they are meant for each other. Throughout the film, Tom tries to convince Summer he is right.
The thing I loved about this film is that it skewers many of our society’s false ideas about love and romance.
Tom believes in a love at first sight, that one can trust one’s feelings to know one’s life partner. While it is true that initial attraction can lead to something more, immediate attraction (the pull of hormones) isn’t necessarily trustworthy. God’s wisdom leads us to rely not just on our feelings, but also our minds and His Spirit for direction in such important decisions in our lives.
Summer believes there is no such thing as love. She observed the loveless marriage and subsequent divorce of her parents, and doesn’t believe that people really can care for more than their own needs and desires. Sadly, many in our society have come to believe that narcissism is the only real option for life. Summer learns from her relationship with Tom that there may be something more.
The couple enters into a sexual relationship quite early in their relationship. Our culture claims that this is no big deal, but the film shows that a sexual relationship without commitment has serious consequences. Inevitably, one person will believe such a step means more than the other. Seeing the pain this causes Tom reminds us that God did not call us to wait until marriage for sex because He is a killjoy. Sex was made for the context of safety found in a committed, exclusive relationship.
Sorry about being a little slow here. (500) Days of Summer came out in the summer but I just got to it a couple of weeks ago. But the movie has hung on in the theaters for months, having gathered a bit a cult following. It’s listed, as I write this, at #197 of the top 250 films of all time at IMDB (Internet Movie Data Base… remember though, this list is voted on chiefly by young computer geeks). Its following comes from solid performances, a smart script by Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber and innovative direction from Marc Webb.
But I appreciated it most for showing what love is not. We, fortunately, can go to God and His Word to find out what it is.
(500) Days of Summer is rated PG-13 for language and sexual situations. It is scheduled for a Blu-Ray DVD release December 22.