20 December 2009

So, about Summer crying...

(500) Days of Summer was released on DVD this week with minimal publicity.   Breakup movies aren't the best Christmas presents, I guess.  [Also, do I have to say that there are major spoilers below?  I'm assuming everyone has seen it at this point.]

I got a second chance to see it and realized (much to my dismay) that my movie theater note-taking isn't as reliable as I once thought.  My July review incorrectly says that Tom gets transferred to the "Sympathy and Grief" department, when it's actually the "Funerals and Sympathy" department.  I think my interpretation is still better.  Oh well.

 A second viewing also allowed me to reflect a little bit on the progression of the film.  It begins with Summer and Tom well after they'd broken up (Summer is in fact married at this point).   You begin to realize that many of the scenes that Tom remembers throughout the film are from that last day of their relationship.  Thank goodness Zooey's costumes are so distinctive, otherwise this would have been very confusing.  Of course, that last day of their relationship is when they go to see The Graduate, and where Summer cries at the end.  So...why is she crying at the end?  It's hard to tell for sure, but I have a few theories. 

1.  Summer is unhappy with Tom.  She's not paying any attention to the film and knows that in a few short hours their non-relationship will end.  And she's sad and scared about what she has to do: break his heart. 

2.  Summer sees herself as Elaine, and Elaine's choice as a tragic mistake.  In case you're unaware, let me ruin it for you: Mike Nichols ends The Graduate with Ben stealing Elaine away from her own wedding.  They dash out and hop on the first bus they see.  And, famously, Nichols keeps shooting the actors in the back of that bus till the film runs out.  Perhaps since they weren't expecting to be on film that long and had no direction of how to act, Elaine and Ben's smiles and laughs turn into pursed lips, silences, and stares off into the distance.  I go back and forth about this scene, hating it because it's supposed to be so deep and real, and loving it because, you know, it's so deep and real - euphoria fades, rash decisions are regretted, conversation runs out.  Mark Webb chooses to focus on a moment of this scene where Elaine's smile fades first, while Ben continues to grin about his triumph.  And maybe Summer does see this as Elaine running off with a lesser evil...someone who's OK, but who she's not actually in love with...and that resonates with her own situation.

3.  Summer is really wrapped up in the movie and her crying has nothing to do with Tom. Was Elaine pregnant?  Did she and Ben really even know each other that well?   Where were they going to go?  He slept with her mother!  Gah!  That's enough life and responsibility to make me cry.  And maybe this is the most reasonable explanation for her desperate reaction.  The Graduate is an unnerving movie for a directionless 20-somethings.  And, as we see in many instances, although Summer cares for Tom, he's not the focus of her thoughts and energies.  She does things that she wants to do and doesn't reflect much on Tom or his feelings. Thus, after the movie when she's trying to politely escape and he endearingly presses her to continue hanging out, she reaches her breaking point - he expects them to spend the whole day together, she just wants to do her own thing.  

So...do any of these sound reasonable? 


Snake Mcmillan said...

I loved (500) Days of Summer and wondered about this too. The first time I saw the movie I didn't get it at all, but when I went back and watched it I thought about it and decided on something that is similar to your second possibility but the roles are reversed. I saw Summer as Dustin Hoffman's character, when he realizes that he doesn't know what he's doing anymore and he's not sure why he decided to be with the woman any longer. He has run out of excitement in being with her just as she has lost excitement in being with Tom. That's the way I saw it. But you're possibilities were great also. I had never thought about it in those other ways before.

Snake Mcmillan said...

Also one more thing: if you notice the scene when they are watching The Graduate, at the moment when Elaine looks over at Hoffman's character the camera cuts to Tom and he gives a similar look to Summer as she cries. That was another reason why I saw Summer as Hoffman and Tom as Elaine.

Snake Mcmillan said...

Sorry I know I'm commenting a lot but I just wanted to make note that this would also be the second time (at least) in the film when it is suggested that Tom is more feminine than Summer. Summer views herself as Sid Vicious, while she views Tom as Nancy Spungen, and now it seems she views herself as Hoffman, and Tom as Elaine. Not to mention that throughout the film Tom always seems to be more sensitive and has more feminine sensibilities than Summer who seems more masculine (Tom is a romantic and years for love while Summer is, basically, just into the casual stuff and doesn't want to commit). I thought it was really interesting that the gender roles were almost switched in that sense. Ok, I think I'm done now :) Great post!

Humanoid said...

I've often wondered this too. Why is Summer crying? I still stick by my first theory, and perhaps you'd like to hear it. Summer is crying because Tom's idea of love is completely wrong.
My reasons behind this theory? It hints throughout the film.
At the very beginning the narrator comments that Tom counted his entire life happniess on meeting 'the one', and that his idea's on love were based on sad british pop music and a "total misreading of The Graduate". Obviously The Graduate isn't exactly a film fuelled of true romance. However, Tom perceived the movie as romantic, giving him hope for future love. Summer, of course, knew this, since she was keen to see it with him for the first time.

She was crying during the end seen because the two characters weren't really in love. They were foolish. But Tom saw this scene as a depiction of true love, which made Summer doubt whether or not he even knew what love really was, or if he was just some silly kid who wanted to fall in love with anyone.

Another hint supporting this theory is during the end scene when Summer says of her new husband that she "knew" what she "was never sure of" with Tom. Obviously there are two ways to look at this quote, but I beleieve that Summer was never sure if if Tom's love was real or not.

And so, that's my theory. Summer cried during The Graduate because Tom saw it as a love story and Summer saw it as the illusion most young people confuse with love (if that makes sense? Does in my head)

Anonymous said...

Hi. I know this is reeeeaaaally late. But here's my take.

Summer cried because the ending of the graduate confirmed her feelings about the relationship. She loves Tom but she is uncertain about a future together with him. Much like the characters at the end. This was what she was referring to at the end when she talked about her husband.

This also coincides with the scene after Tom punches the guy hitting on summer in the bar. She apologizes to him about being angry at him for what happened. But she never alologized for the comment about them just being friends. She even reiterates that the certainty that Tom is looking for is not something she can give, because even she is uncertain about how she would feel about Tom "forever". Tom however, saw this as just something Summer would say though she loves him still.

Still, it's just my take and it's amazing how many interpretations there are about this movie.


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