While I like to think of myself as adept when it comes to relationships, a handful of former girlfriends and an ex-wife have shown me I may as well be a toll taker for the Bridge of Sighs. That hasn't stopped me from writing stories about love, and my male characters, like me, tend not to see situations for what they are. Men often need help, which is why Deanna Troi on Star Trek: The Next Generation, epitomizes what men lack. She's an empath, part human, part betazoid, who has the empathic ability to sense emotions. I swear my wife Ann is similar. We can go to a party, and she'll tell me how she feels sorry for so-and-so, who is clearly troubled.
"She is?" I'll say. "But she said everything is good. She and Jerry just bought a new house."
"Couldn't you see the strain on her face? Notice that Jerry didn't say anything."
"He never says anything."
"This time, he said nothing for a different reason."
Thus, when we go to movies, Ann often sees things differently than I do. That's what I love about movies, by the way. People see the exact same actions and dialogue and come up with different interpretations. Our differences in the new film (500) Days of Summer betray exactly what the film is about.
In the story, Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a greeting card author in Los Angeles, falls for his boss's new assistant, Summer (Zooey Deschanel). When she actually pays attention to him, he can't believe his good fortune, and he just wants to do no wrong.
A quick digression: Last semester, love came up as a discussion topic in my English class as we read the amazing book, Water for Elephants. A male student from France said, "Women have all the power. They know men want them, and men sometimes will do anything and say anything to stay in their favor." This epitomizes Tom, and he's forever on edge because Summer early on says she doesn't want a deep relationship. "We're young. Might as well have fun while we can," she pronounces early on.
"Wait. Wait," Tom says. "What happens if you fall in love?
"You don't believe that, do you?" Summer replies.
"Well, it's love. It's not Santa Claus."
Thus, as they see more and more of each other, Tom doesn't want to outright say he loves her--that her every atom spins his universe.
The film chronicles the 500 days of their relationship and jumps back and forth in time, from, for instance, Day 488 to Day 2. The contrasts pull out in bas relief the ups and downs of any relationship. The interesting thing is it's the man, Tom, not the woman, Summer, who is the more emotional being. This is the secret about men: they feel a lot--not that they can talk about it.
It's at this point, I have to give a bit of the plot away, so if you want to see the movie, you might stop here. At the beginning a narrator says, "This is not a love story." I didn't believe him. Of course it was a love story. That's why we were there, and I soon saw Tom and Summer were perfect for each other.
This is where Ann saw things differently, saying, "Summer said it up front that she didn't want a relationship. She was true the whole time."
"No," I said. "You could see they were right for each other. They had such incredible chemistry. They had so much in common: the same employer, the songs of the Smiths, the art of architecture."
"She didn't love him," Ann said. "Not at any point did she lead him astray."
I could have pointed out--but I hadn't thought of it at the time--that she did deceive him after they had a fight and she shows up at his door, all wet from the rain. She kisses him. I'm a fool for women in wet shirts who kiss. The same scene in Spiderman won me over.
As the relationship ripens, Tom becomes braver in telling Summer his thoughts, to which she says they fight all the time. In her words, "We've been like Sid and Nancy for months now."
"We have some disagreements," says Tom, "but I hardly think I'm Sid Vicious."
"No. I'm Sid," she says.
"Oh, so I'm Nancy?"
Again, Ann would point out she's not leading him on. She's honest that she's cold-hearted.
Ah, but I saw her heart as warm. He's warm. They're perfect.
"No," said Ann. I have to believe her. She sees things.
I also have a feeling (500) Days of Summer, directed by first-timer Marc Webb, working from Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber's witty script, is a Rorschach test about love.
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