Sunday, February 10, 2013

Don't Make a Scene: (500) Days of Summer

The Story: I loved (500) Days of Summer.  It rang of truth to me, not the myth of Hollywood Romance which a lot of us now take for "love," (and it could be, if they didn't cut the bad bits out, or end it at the best "Happily Exit After").  For one thing, it exploded the rom-com "given" that the girl is going to be the one head-over-heels for the guy.  Here, the guy is all gooey-romantic to the point where he can't see straight, certainly where she's concerned.  It also nicely tweaks the "soul-mate" myth...or "the one" (you know, who's been waiting all your life, to be the perfect match, out of the billions of people in the world).

Only a "guy" could believe a concept that dumb.  That there's "one."  The only other person who could believe something so silly would a "girl."  Either one, would have to be "romantic" enough (or should we say "particular" enough, or "needy" enough, or "naive" enough)  to buy into the "soul-mate" nonsense.  It's building up the notion of attraction to folkloric heights of such scale and impossibility that it sets one up automatically to fail, either if "the one" doesn't work out, or if it is never attained.

And if it doesn't go right, it's devastating, prompting all sorts of odd behavior, either acting out or staying in (for example, the opening titles of the film, which calls out—then insults—some fictional "ex" of one of the film-makers). (500) plays with the concept, and manages to milk observational comedy out of it.  My favorite take-away was Tom's concept of love based on (as we're told) "a total misreading of...The Graduate," which, if one is paying attention, manages to question the viability of Ben and Elaine's "love-conquers-all" romance before the end of the second-to-last shot.  

Director Marc Webb (The Amazing Spider-man) does not follow the scripters' advice to show Tom and Summer in split-screen right before their meeting, instead giving them their own spaces, joining them once in a distant pan of the greeting card company office where they both work.  They don't occupy the same frame or the same space (except in the "488" section) at this stage of the film until after we're informed "this is not a love story."

Which isn't really true.  It is a love story, but it's a love story born out of naivete and lack of experience and more of obsession.  Yes, there may be a "one and only" but one can only find their "only" within one's self, through commitment and character. 


The Set-Up:  No story yet.  This is the beginning of the movie.  Tom is Joseph Gordon-Levitt.  Summer is Zooey Deschanel.

Action!


SIMPLE BLACK ON WHITE CREDITS ROLL TO BIG STAR'S "I'M IN LOVE WITH A GIRL." When all is said and done, up comes a single number in parenthesis, like so: 


(478) 

EXT. PARK - DAY



For a few seconds we watch A MAN (20s) and a WOMAN (20s) on a park bench. Their names are TOM and SUMMER. Neither one says a word.


CLOSE ON her HAND, covering his. Notice the wedding ring. 

No words are spoken. Tom looks at her the way every woman wants to be looked at. 

A DISTINGUISHED VOICE begins to speak to us. 

NARRATOR This is a story of boy meets girl. 

CUT TO: 

(1) 

INT CONFERENCE ROOM - DAY 



The boy is TOM HANSEN. He sits at a very long rectangular conference table. The walls are lined with framed blow-up sized greeting cards. Tom, dark hair and blue eyes, wears a t- shirt under his sports coat and Adidas tennis shoes to balance out the corporate dress code. He looks pretty bored. 


NARRATOR The boy, Tom Hansen of Margate, New Jersey, grew up believing that he'd never truly be happy until the day he met his... "soulmate." "the one."

CUT TO: INT LIVING ROOM - 1989 



PRE-TEEN TOM sits alone on his bed engrossed in a movie. His walls are covered in posters of obscure bands. From the TV, we hear: "Elaine! Elaine!" 


4. NARRATOR This belief stemmed from early exposure to sad British pop music and a total misreading of the movie, "The Graduate." 

CUT TO: INT OFFICE CUBICLE - PRESENT DAY


The girl is SUMMER FINN. She files folders and answers phones in a plain white office. She has cropped blonde hair almost like a boy's but her face is feminine and pretty enough to get away with it. 

NARRATOR The girl, Summer Finn of Shinnecock, Michigan, did not share this belief. 

CUT TO: INT BATHROOM - 1994 



Teenage Summer stares at herself in the mirror. Her hair extends down to her lower back.

NARRATOR Since the disintegration of her parents' marriage, she'd only loved two things. The first was her long blonde dark hair.



She picks up scissors from the counter and begins to slice.

NARRATOR The second was how easily she could cut it off... And feel nothing. 

CUT TO: SPLITSCREEN. INT BOARDROOM/ INT CUBICLE - SAME 



On the right side of the screen, Tom continues to listen to some boring presentation. On the left, Summer answers a call, takes a message, and walks out of her cubicle down a long narrow hallway.

5. NARRATOR Tom meets Summer on January 8th in a San Francisco office building. 


NARRATOR In an instant, he will know she's the one he's been looking for. 



CU Summer opening the door to the boardroom, about to come face to face with Tom for the first time.

NARRATOR This is a story of boy meets girl. 

But before they do

CUT TO: BLACK. 
NARRATOR You should know up front, this is not a love story.


(500) Days of Summer

Words by Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber

Pictures by Eric Steelberg and Marc Webb

(500) Days of Summer is available on DVD from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.



1 comment:

Mike Lippert said...

You know, movies like this tend to grab me the first time I see them but don't hold up upon further viewing. Maybe it's because I'm older now, more bitter and cynical, less impressed by indie movies with hip soundtracks and quirky young actors. I haven't yet went back to this one, but maybe I should. I did love it as well when I first saw it.