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Friday, August 7, 2009

500 Days of Summer: Some Problems, But Overall Worth Watching

I have been waiting for a while for 500 Days of Summer to come out in Grand Rapids. And today, I finally got to go see it. I have been in love with Zooey Deschanel since I saw Tin Man and Joseph Gordon-Levitt since 10 Things I Hate About You, so I thought they were going to be a great match up. I'm going to start off by saying that I really did like the movie overall, but there were some problematic things in every movie.

So, let's start off with the bad news first (aka, the stuff I didn't like or found problematic):

It was told entirely from a male perspective: The movie was through the eyes of Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character, Tom. We only got into the mind of Zooey Deschanel's character, Summer, when she talked to Tom. So we never really got to fully see what she was thinking or feeling. And also because of this, Summer was portrayed, in some parts, as crazy, unemotional, or inconsiderate because all we saw of her was what Tom's interpretation of her was. Granted, Tom's experiences, thoughts, and feelings are just as valid and important to the story as Summer's. But we never really get to hear Summer's side of the story. We hear her explain her feelings to Tom, but it's not the same as getting into her head as the movie does with Tom.

It portrays skinny women as the norm: Yes, most tv shows and movies do this. But the movie actually says it. At the beginning of the movie, the narrator is describing Summer. He says she's normal height, normals weight, and slightly larger than normal shoe size, while pointing out on a still image, her height, weight, and shoe size. Normal weight = 121 lbs? I don't think so.

Skanks, whores and "you're a guy": Summer is often referred to as a skank or whore when she does not conform to to societal feminine norms, such as her desire to not be in a serious relationship, or when she breaks up with Tom. I understand that you're hurting, Tom - fictional movie character, but I don't think that it's ok to call her a skank or whore just because you got your feelings hurt. In addition to that, when Summer is explaing to Tom and his friend that she doesn't want a serious relationship and doesn't believe in love, she gets asked if she's a lesbian and then it is declared that she's a guy. Stereotypes much?

And now on the why I really did enjoy the movie...

Summer actually did have her own opinions and desires: Even though I talked above about how it's told from Tom's perspective and we never really got into Summer's head, it is clear that Summer knows what she wants and has her own desires. She's not afraid to tell Tom that she doesn't want a serious relationship and refuses to put labels on their relationship. She doesn't embody the stereotypical role of women (of wanting relationships and commitment) and she isn't afraid to express it.

It's got a pretty unique storyline and film editing: We know from the beginning that this is not a love story, which is kind of a lie, but kind of not. But this already puts it one step ahead of most rom-coms. The movie also jumps between times, which adds an interesting aspect to the storyline. At one point we see after they have broken up (sorry, but you know it's coming) and then five minutes later we see when they are just starting to date and when they are in a happy relationship. This adds a lot of interest to the movie.

Dating advice from a little sister: Tom gets dating advice from his little sister, who I would estimate to be around 13 or 14 years old. She tells it like it is and actually has some good advice for him.

It definitely has its funny moments: While it's not always funny to watch a depressed person on the big screen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt pulls it off. I laughed throughout the movie and so did a lot of people in the theater (unfortunately, the ones sitting close to me had really annoying, loud laughs).

500 Days of Summer is an big movie trying to be indie. While it's definitely not on the bigger end of most movies made, it's not exactly an indie film either, even though it tries to be. I do recommend this movie because it's amusing, unique, and cute. And I love Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt and they have great chemistry on screen. Have you seen 500 Days of Summer? What did you think of it?

To get a taste of their chemistry together, watch this video that they made to one of Zooey's band's songs ("Why Do You Let Me Stay Here" by She & Him):

I am also contemplating a post on Zooey Deschanel in response to a post at Tiger Beatdown and the comments it received, so stay tuned.


LBD said...

So I stumbled across this post because I just came home from seeing 500 Days of Summer and wanted ot read what some fellow feminists had to say about it.

I completely agree with you on the points about skinny as the norm, dating advice from the little sister, the funny moments, and the unique editing.

However, while I certainly cannot argue with the fact that it was told entirely from a male perspective, I didn't really mind that. I thought that it was interesting to see a movie that normally would be considered "just another chick flick" told from the male perspective. That being said, there were certainly times when Summer was a bit irrational without the opportunity to explain herself, which sucks.

On your part about skanks, whores, and "you're a guy," I think the scene in the karaoke bar was actually a little more pro-women than you make it out to be. The friend was drunk and really just looked like an idiot (at least to me) and it gave Summer a chance to explain her point of view - that she can be an independent woman without a man in her life. I actually really liked that scene. The name-calling after the break up is certainly not ok though. But in the bar scene, I saw it more as making fun of the friend (and stereotypes in general) rather than making Summer out to be some sort of freak who must be a lesbian or a dude because she doesn't want a boyfriend.

Ok I'll stop now. I really did like your article and will definitely bookmark your blog!

lsaspacey said...

1. The movie was a somewhat true story from one of the screenwriters, (it says so at the beginning) so it was written from the guys point of view on purpose. If I (a girl, though) wrote about my last relationship I wouldn't be able to give you the guy's point of view either, I could only make it up. Therefore, I liked this movie because that one point made this movie more true to real relationships than most of the other rom-coms out there.

2. The weight thing annoyed me too. I'm pretty small but at 5'4" I'm still 135 pounds. I would look sick at 121 and I have a feeling Zooey is even taller than me.

3. Unfortunately, I've heard my guy friends say these same things until I called them on it.

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