Over the course of my life, there have been movies and songs that seemed to be made just for my generation, or just for people in similar situations as me — Fight Club was perfect for a 19 year-old male with mother issues, Rushmore seemed made for boys who spent their adolescence in a restrictive all-male high school who prized creativity over grades. The band Tool spoke to all my interests in science fiction, philosophy, the occult. You know, deep shit.
But there are some things that transcend mere love as it is defined for music or film or a book or play. Sometimes it’s not about liking the thing, or knowing what it is talking about. Sometimes something just speaks directly to you, and you get the distinct impression that very few of the people around you are going through the same experience. Though they are laughing at the right places and tearing up at the right places, they are still sitting in a theater or listening to the radio. You are in the movie, you are in the song. It’s like you and a friend both met a very attractive girl at the same time; both of you were turned on, but one of you is a different person for having met her.
All of this is to say, I’m the type of person who has tasted the love of a good book (Stranger in a Strange Land), I have heard songs from 20 years prior that let me know that I was not alone in being alone (How Soon Is Now?), and I have been forever altered by connections made with television characters (My So-called Life).
Three movies have taken me inside them and sweat a level of cold comfort from my body, leaving me altered but thankful for it. The first was The Breakfast Club. I’d seen parts of it a thousand times, but the first time I watched that movie from beginning to end, I was just the right age to do so, and in just enough of a teenage depression to be severely helped by it.
The second was American Beauty. I remember every last bit of that experience. I remember that when I saw it, it was more about the two teenagers than it has been since. I was in my first relationship, and I was a bit of a morbid lunatic — but I was more confident than I’ve ever been since. Irina did that to me, still does. Her belief in me is so pure it can bolster me from shut-in to prophet, and I’m glad for the occasional fix of it. The plastic bag sequence and the ending narration reacquainted me with a deep-seeded joy of life of which I never fully let go.
The third is (500) Days of Summer. Most people who either saw it with me or have heard me talk about it since think I’m being a tad bit melodramatic about it, or maybe that I just need to shut the fuck up. I’m sure they’re right. I walked out comparing it to Requiem for a Dream, in that I had been traumatized. This was a joke, but not entirely hyperbolic. I didn’t know if I’d ever want to watch it again. As the days go by and my appetite to see the film again increases, I’ve realized I was wrong. I will be watching this film quite a lot.
The film basically condenses the past 4 or so post-Katrina years of my life, and the pseudo relationship of which I’ve been a part, into a 2 hour indie tour de force. Sure, it took out the distance, obviously doesn’t mention a preceding hurricane, and the relationship doesn’t advance in a series of installments when the two main characters happen to be in the same city, but like I said. Condensed. Tack onto that my man crush on Joseph Gordon-Levitt that started with Brick and was solidified by a squee when he was in two seconds of a shot in Brothers Bloom, and the fact that I think I fall in love with Zooey Deschanel differently for every part I’ve experienced her play, from Elf to Trillian to Weeds to Tin Man.
The movie continually tells you what the movie is, yet it still punches you in the gut when it is what you’ve been told it is. Much like Tom, we are holding out the hope that we are being lied to, and are crushed by the truth. For me, it was a strange, unwelcome but needed wake-up call.
I am also thankful for finally having my type portrayed on screen at all. Not all men are sex-crazed commitment-phobes, and not all women are needy, insecure relationship-aholics. In my experience, nothing but the exact inverse of that has been true, and it was nice to finally have that portrayed in a film. Certainly, Say Anything had it’s Cusack, but Ione Skye was anything but a fun-loving gentleman’s woman like Summer. This version is intensely more accurate. There’s always someone who’s more into it than the other. True love, perhaps, is when everything’s even.
Marc Webb, formerly a music video director, does a phenomenal job here. His background shows in spades, from the remarkable soundtrack (which kills me all over again because of how linked the music is to specific emotions in the film), to a musical set piece that is the highlight of the movie. He also uses color, or specifically avoids color, to force us into Tom’s position a bit — the palette for the entire movie is neutral, except when Summer is present, and the amazing blue of Zooey Deschanel’s eyes subtly surround us.
If you have the time or inclination, I highly recommend the film, and if you love the film, I highly recommend visiting the website, where if you look you can find a Marc Webb-directed video for Zooey’s band, She & Him, featuring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and a recasting of a scene from Sid & Nancy featuring Zooey as Sid and Joseph as Nancy (a reference to a line in 500 Days).