(500) Days of manipulation According to its tagline, (500) Days of Summer is a story of boy meets girl but it is not a love story. However, does the film manage to transcend the Classical Hollywood standard?
Luke Batten •
n Stacey Abbott and Deborah Jermyn’s Falling in Love Again: Romantic Comedy in Contemporary Cinema (2008), Tamar Jeffers McDonald defines the arrival of a romantic comedy where the male is the central protagonist as the “homme-com”, a response to the established “chick flick”. Woody Allen’s Annie Hall (1977) is a cinematic touchstone in this respect and a number of critics have observed the importance of the film in subverting the conventional tropes of the romantic comedy genre. Structured nonchronologically, the narrative follows comedian Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) as he contemplates the reasons that ended his relationship with Annie Hall (Diane Keaton) a year ago. Marc Webb’s (500) Days of Summer (2009)and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s portrayal of the main character Tom seemingly offer a significant challenge to the dominant image of masculinity defined by physical strength and the subordination of women. The film also displays a non-linear narrative structure. A story about lost love is presented through flashbacks from Tom and Summer’s (Zooey Deschanel) 500day relationship, presented from the male perspective. As stated by the narrator at the beginning of the film, Tom “grew up believing that he’d never truly be happy until the day he met the one”. The finite nature of Tom’s 500day relationship with Summer immediately debunks his belief that finding his one true love will equate to experiencing genuine happiness. Tom challenges the stereotype that men are innately preoccupied with sex, since his desire is for a serious relationship. For Stella Bruzzi, as mentioned in her 2013 book Men’s Cinema: Masculinity and Mise-en-scene in Hollywood, the film conforms to the conventions of the Hollywood melodrama of the 1940s and
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1950s whereby its stylization emphasises the characters’ emotional journeys. In doing so, the film is comparable to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), which also follows a nonlinear structure, presenting the good and bad moments of Joel (Jim Carrey) and Clementine’s (Kate Winslet) relationship through flashbacks. Director Michel Gondry employs surrealism to externalise the internal reality of Joel’s memory erasure of Clementine, which also underlines the realism of their relationship. We observe their surroundings physically collapsing around them as they subconsciously try to escape the memory erasure procedure. In (500) Days of Summer, live action is both juxtaposed and integrated with hand-drawn animations, especially in scenes significant in shaping their relationship. When Tom has his first sexual encounter with Summer, a crucial junction in their relationship, he believes that
Diegesis CUT TO [conflict] issue 9 2015. New voices in screen criticism.