Now that it’s winter, here’s 500 days of Summer.

Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love. Girl doesn’t.

This was the tagline that lured me in to see the delightful 500 days of Summer. Being a person who is bored of rom-coms where all girls are emotional wrecks lying in wait by the phone, and all men are heartbreakers, I was interested to see director Marc Webb’s interpretation of the modern love story.  I wasn’t disappointed, 500 days plays out like my own love life does in a dream, where I walk away from a relationship with all the power and my dignity still intact (I’ll manage it some day!) .

The film follows the relationship of Summer Finn and Tom Hansen, two gorgeous young things who work at a greeting card company together. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays the quietly cute male to Zooey Deschanel’s sparky, spunky female- Summer is a woman who inspires love in the hearts of everyone she meets, despite not believing in love herself. Tom becomes besotted with Summer at first glance, and as we travel through the ‘500 days’ of their relationship, we see the intense crush move into a warm, romantic place, though not in the traditional sense of the rom-com realm. It is Summer’s character who is a serial commitment-a-phobe, shunning a solid relationship with Tom over sparse dates and casual sex. In the end, it is Summer who leaves Tom, making him a sniffing, sniveling mess, who stays at home smashing plates in his apartment, and trying to heal his broken heart with albums by The Smiths.

It is important to note that,  although Summer is clearly a  sexually active and passionate person, she is never represented as slutty, or manipulative.  Throughout the film, Summer manages to retain her sexualised femininity alongside her innocence and integrity, and I attribute this to the obvious intelligence of Summer’s character, she is upfront about her desires but they are not crude, or blatant, she is not a ‘player’ in the traditional frat-boy film sense. In this way, for me, Summer is definitely an empowering female character, at no point objectified by the male gaze at least in terms of the male protagonist.

On further research however, it seems Summer is being labeled as an anti-feminist all over the internet. Just take Doree Shafrir’s Indie Dream Girls article, where Summer’s portrayal is described as ‘retrograde’, and her role as that of a ‘bewitching villain’.  Shafrir raises some good points about how the film can potentially be read as not so empowering, asking:

‘What about a romantic comedy about a woman who actually has opinions, who doesn’t play hard to get, who articulates her hopes and dreams and expects her boyfriend to get excited about those, too?’

It seems like us Brits might be ahead of the game here with our lovely Bridget Jones! Summer’s lack of her own narrative is perhaps a stumbling block of the film, but I can’t help but feel that making Zooey Deschanel channel a staunchly feminist view would ruin the movie’s lovely, lightweight feel. Personally, I think that for a mainstream, commercially successful rom com, the female representation was actually pretty empowering; I definitely left feeling envious of Summer’s self-perpetuated freedom in her working and romantic life.  By the end of the film, she is to all intents and purposes ’successful’ independently of  Tom, who has to fall into another relationship (with the conveniently named Autumn) in order to ’survive’.

The jury might be out on whether Summer is a feminist icon or not. But I daresay it doesn’t really matter; 500 Days is a charming little movie, full of the feel-good factor. At the end of the day, isn’t that what we want from rom-c0ms?

By: Yasmin Eshref, 02.02.2010 | Comments (3)
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  • Shaziya Niamh
    February 2nd, 2010
    1:45 pm

    When I first watched this film I thought Summers character was very one dimensional but having watched the film again I can see that for the film to work it had to be from Toms point of view. Though we don’t know much about Summer she does come across as intelligent, passionate and not slutty. This makes a change from most female rom-com characters and I felt that I could relate to her in a way. I love this film as its not just about relationships. There is the underlying theme of following your dreams and to this a fantastic soundtrack and easy on the eye colour pallet and you have a recipe for beating the winter blues. Great Review!

  • Sarah Barnes
    February 2nd, 2010
    4:37 pm

    I’ve been meaning to see this film for soooooo long! I’m a sucker for anything with a Smiths reference. Thanks for reminding me that I need to make a visit to the the video store asap, Yas! x

  • LUKE
    April 10th, 2011
    8:30 am

    Summer’s character is a TOTAL player. And for all we know she was sleeping with other men, he just never caught her. Either way, her mannerism’s and complete act was that of a PLAYER and if Tom’s character did pretty much every possible thing wrong that you should do when dealing with a player. I.E. if Tom had simply dated other women while dating Summer, his ring would be on her finger right now…

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