Wednesday, October 07, 2009

500 Days of Summer (2009)

scr. by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber

There's a lot to enjoy about this relationship comedy, much of it centring around its playful structure.

Pay attention to the difference between how Tom and Summer are presented. Tom is definitely the main character of the film: the story is presented mostly through his eyes, and it's sympathetic towards him. We have way less psychological access to Summer and what's going on with her; as a result, to Tom she appears to flip between being his dream girl and a complete bitch. And there's at least one point in the movie where Summer does something that makes no apparent sense whatsoever.

But ...

Here's the thing when you watch it: accept that Summer is not the main character but play a little mental game and pretend that she is the protagonist of the film. The one who has to make choices and change.

Go further and pretend that Tom is her antagonist. From the Elements of Persuasion:
Antagonists keep the Hero from achieving their goal.

Antagonists don't create conflict; they "clarify what the conflict is about"....
[Stories] aren't about 'defeating' the Antagonist, they're about us discovering
what we need to change in order to defeat them.

Keep that in mind and you might find the script's structure is not only playful but extremely balanced.

I highly recommend this film - so far it's in my top 5 for the year.


Anonymous said...

We saw this film last night at The Empire. Nice soundtrack. I haven't been to a nice soundtrack movie in awhile.

Your point about flipping the roles around and seeing Summer as the the lead is interesting, and works. She does go on a journey, and infact her journey would be more conventional and satisfying in the Hollywood style, and the dude acts as a roadblock.

LOVED the bit at the start where it said Summer's character was defined by totally misreading the ending of The Graduate, and it's that movie that throws their relationship off the rails.

Sometimes a little too sappy (for me), and I wish the ending for the male lead had been less hopeful (but I watched too many European movies when I was a kid and it has scarred me). Still, I really enjoyed it.

hix said...

The more I think about it, the more conventional the morality in the script feels to me. I don't think that's a bad thing (I like sappy), but it does subvert the subversion that the story seems to be promising us.

It took me a few days to really appreciate the real antagonism that Summer offers Tom - at first I thought it was about the nature of relationships, but it's not that at all. I say no more for fear of spoiling it.

... and the misunderstanding about The Graduate is amazing. In fact, it's reminding me what a complicated, subtle, subversive movie The Graduate actually is. I think there could be a rewatching coming up.

I had an issue with the ending as well, but it was far more superficial that yours: I felt they cast someone who was a little bit too attractive, and therefore the scene felt less real than I wanted and more Hollywood-movie.