2009 was something of a banner year for cinema. We got an indulgent yet entertaining WWII flick from Quentin Tarantino and there was James Cameron’s awful blue people CGI-fest that remains the highest earning movie of all time (for now).
But the film that stood the test of time better than anything else that year is perhaps Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel’s subversive romcom, 500 Days of Summer.
That’s because the film perfectly showed the whole “nice guy” problem we see in the dating world and that depiction remains more relevant than ever today.
500 Days of Summer tells the story of Tom (Gordon-Levitt) and Summer’s (Deschanel) relationship from Tom’s perspective. What starts off as a pretty cute romcom soon unfolds itself as a critque on how guys get the wrong idea about relationships despite all the clear signs and how men can and need to be better.
Despite being told by Summer that she isn’t looking for a relationship, Tom still pursues her and gets obsessively attached to her. He projects all these fantasies onto her and basically thinks she’s the Manic Pixie Dream Girl who will give his life meaning. It’s pretty pathetic and at times creepy.
Once they break up, he sinks into a deep depression and the truly ugly parts begin to overflow. When he’s not being a sullen mess, he’s whinging about why Summer wouldn’t date him despite being such a “nice guy” and basically being all entitled about the whole thing.
Tom is basically the personification of the “nice guy” problem in a nutshell: He gets unhealthily attached to a woman he likes and then gets angry when she rejects him. The character certainly isn’t someone men should look up to in their pursuit of romance, something that Gordon-Levitt wholeheartedly agrees with.
If there’s anything to be learned from the film, it’s don’t be like Tom and fall in love with the idea of a person.
While Tom ultimately grows and learns from his “nice guy” phase with Autumn, the same can’t be said about real life. If anything, it seems like men have taken all the wrong lessons from 500 Days of Summer and regressed in the decade since the film’s release.
500 Days of Summer was and still is a perfect example of why the “nice guy” mentality is awful and the lessons taught by that film remain more relevant now than they were 10 years ago. Be the version of Tom who grows up in the end and not the version who obsessively pines over someone to the point where it goes all pear-shaped.