500 Days of Summer

I saw 500 Days of Summer today, at the suggestion of my therapist. It’s about a guy named Tom who meets a girl named Summer. Tom buys into all this “searching for your soul mate” jazz, while Summer is more skeptical, noting that relationships break up, marriages end in divorce, and she’s never felt true love in her past relationships. Summer says that she doesn’t want to be encumbered with a relationship. Yet, she still kisses Tom, holds hands with him, and sleeps with him, and he’s frustrated because he feels they’re a couple while she’s not clear about what exactly they are.

Tom becomes frustrated with all of the “lies” popular culture fed him–about finding “the one true love” and becoming fulfilled in the process–so he quits his job writing greeting cards and pursues his dream to become an architect. Summer, meanwhile, meets a man by “chance,” concludes he’s “the one,” and gets married. She starts to believe in fate, since she could’ve easily not met the man she’s compatible with (had she arrived too early, or too late, etc.). She tells Tom that his dream was true, only it wasn’t to be with her. And, as Tom is about to be interviewed for an architect’s position, he meets a competitor, a pretty young lady named “Autumn.” And so Day 1 of a new relationship begins!

The movie jumps around in the 500 days and isn’t in chronological order. We see Summer dumping Tom and wanting to be friends, right before we see how they became a couple in the first place. In one scene, she doesn’t laugh at his joke about the sink not working. In the next scene, she laughs when he first tells it.

There are scenes that stick in my mind. For example, the morning after Tom first sleeps with Summer, he feels on top of the world! He looks in a car window and sees Han Solo winking at him.  I also liked the scene that contrasted Tom’s expectations with reality. Tom expected to get back together with Summer; instead, he found out she was engaged to somebody else.

Actually, the lady who played Summer is sticking in my mind because she was so cute!

Which view on romance do I prefer: the “romantic,” “your soul mate will find you” view that Tom had at the beginning of the movie, or the “life is a coincidence” view that Summer initially held? I wrote on my Facebook that I go with the latter, but actually I’m not so sure. I think that Tom’s problem was that he was in love with his romantic narrative and was projecting that onto Summer, meaning he didn’t love her, but rather the whole idea of finding a soul mate and being attractive to a nice-looking lady. The problem with searching for “the one” is that no one can meet a standard of perfection, since relationships take work.

At the same time, one character from the movie is Paul, a friend of Tom. Paul’s been with the same woman since 1997. She’s not his dream girl, but he’s comfortable with her and thinks she’s better than his dream girl. For me, that’s the thing to look for in a potential mate: not a perfect “one,” but someone I’m compatible with. Someone with whom I can “do life.” As Robin Williams said in Good Will Hunting, the question is not whether the girl is perfect, but whether we’re right for each other.

Do I believe in fate? I don’t know. As Summer said before she got married, there are plenty of relationships that go sour. That seems to indicate that God isn’t minding the store and leading everyone to his or her perfect mate. At the same time, there are people who do meet “their soul mate,” someone with whom they’re comfortable enough to share a life together. Sometimes, their first meeting appears so happenstance, which is why many do believe in fate. They can’t fathom having met someone who’s so “right” for them purely by chance. And those tired of the dating game, or people like me who have a hard time getting our foot in the door at the outset, draw from their stories to give us hope and to support our dreams.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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