Learn From This: 500 Days of Summer

You’d be surprised what you can learn from the movies.

No, seriously.

There’s a great deal of knowledge to be had, if you only know where to look. Even if it’s a case of being a warning to others. Which brings us to the Learn From This section of Dr. NerdLove. I’ll be reviewing movies that my fellow nerds and geeks should be watching, not only because they’re good movies, but because there’s a lot that you could benefit from, if you’re paying attention. So to start with…

500 Days of Summer is a must-watch movie for guys.

No, literally. Any guy past the age of 16 needs to be sat down with a copy of this movie and made to watch it from start to finish. With Clockwork Orange-style eye restraints if need be. And afterwards there will be a written exam. Anyone who fails the exam is prohibited from talking to women he is not actually related to for a year until he wises up.

I spent the entire movie wondering when the hell director Marc Webb managed to follow me around when I was dating my Summer. There are few things as emotionally painful as watching your entire relationship writ large on the screen, watching someone make almost every mistake you made yourself.

I literally spent the entire movie predicting the plot like i was the Amazing goddamn Kreskin (Google it, kids).

Despite what this sounds like, I loved the movie. It’s incredibly well written and sublimely acted; Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel are believable and charming. You can understand exactly what it is Tom (Godon-Levitt) sees in Summer (Deschanel).

And I fully believe every man should see this. Not geeks, nerds or the like. Men in general. As a whole. The entire goddamn gender. Because this is a movie is a point by point breakdown of some of the most common mistakes guys make when they’re chasing the women they love.

What Nerds Can Learn From This:

Oh so many things. Let’s break it down for you. Obviously, spoilers are going to abound, so read at your own risk.

There Is No One: Early on, the Narrator – who, let’s face it, is narrating things from Tom’s perspective – is showing us facts that aren’t exactly in evidence. Zooey Deschanel is cute as hell, but she’s not a ravishing beauty by any stretch of the imagination, making men swoon in her presence.

However, Tom’s got a bad case of one-itsis. He’s become convinced that he and Summer are soul-mates and that there’s no one else out there who could complete him the way she does. This makes him profoundly blind not only to her flaws, but to the problems in the relationship that doomed it from the outset.  It’s not until he meets Autumn that he starts to recognize that there are other women out in the world who are better for him.

When the woman tells you she doesn’t want a relationship… LISTEN TO HER: Part of Tom’s problem is common to nerds: he only hears what he wants to, not what Summer is actually saying. She tells him repeatedly that she doesn’t want anything serious; Tom, meanwhile is too busy dreaming of white-picket fences (or, really, an awesome condo in Silver Lake) and he’s totally convinced that he can change her mind if he hangs in there long enough.

Beware The Mixed Messages: Summer is by no means innocent in this; every time she tells Tom she doesn’t want anything serious, she goes and does something that sends the completely opposite signal. She tells him she doesn’t want to be in a relationship… then goes and plays house with him in IKEA. She breaks up with him after making out in the street. She tells a guy in the bar that she and Tom are just friends, but then comes to his place and sleeps with him. These are warning signs and should be treated accordingly.

Don’t Be In Love With Love: The narrator even says Tom’s idea of romance is based on a misunderstanding of the ending of The Graduate. Tom’s so obsessed with the idea of soulmates and Twue Wuv that as soon as a relationship rolls around, he feels like he’s just won the lottery AND scored the winning touchdown at the Super Bowl. Of course, this leads to…

Don’t Date The Fantasy: Tom, as evidenced by the Narrator, never sees Summer as the woman she really is; she’s the Magic Indie Girl of His Dreams, not a complicated woman who is, frankly, an insensitive tease at times. It’s his stubborn refusal to accept the reality of Summer, with all of her attendant flaws, complications and complexities, that leads to his downfall and his inability to get over her.

You Don’t Wanna Be Friends: Break-ups mean the relationship is over. Trying to be friends after the breakup is almost always a bad idea; at least one person will be more emotionally invested, and too many people (usually men) attempt to back-door their way back into the relationship. When Tom reunites with Summer at a friend’s wedding, he sees it as a golden opportunity to win her back. This colors his every interpretation of their weekend together; he’s reading the tea-leaves and his obsession with her means he’s going to see everything as a sign that True Love really will win in the end. Then two days later at the party, the universe applies the Hobnailed Boot of Reality upside his head and he enters the downward spiral.

You Need To Focus On Yourself: Ultimately it’s not until Tom begins to spend his time fixing his life that he starts to get over her. Instead of brooding and drinking – two hobbies I myself have enjoyed on more than one occasion – be starts to remember his real dreams and begins to peruse architecture again. He’s focused on improving himself and getting his life in order and giving up on his foolish obsession with the idea of the perfect relationship. And then, right as he’s genuinely not looking for love… he meets Autumn.

Watch this movie. Learn from it.

(500) Days of Summer [Blu-ray] with Digital Copy