The periodic narrator of (500) Days of Summer announces early on that “this is not a love story; this is story about love.” I disagree. This is neither a love story nor a story about a love but rather a story about narcissism, passive aggression, and rank immaturity, and as such, it’s not a particularly enjoyable tale.
God knows it’s not unusual for a romantic comedy to traffic in all sorts of twisted ideas about love and romance, but (500) clearly—and incorrectly—fancies itself unusually wise, which makes it unusually annoying. For one thing, despite its pretensions, the movie dabbles in plenty of the usual clichés (the impossibly wise child adviser being a particularly obnoxious element), but it’s the warped “romantic” hero that really gets me. The movie knows he’s in the wrong, but it never truly acknowledges just how in the wrong he is, and although it wants to pretend that Tom has Learned Lessons and Grown over the course of the movie, that’s not really the case—mainly because the filmmakers seem a bit foggy on what lessons he should have learned. They make a joke about Tom having badly misinterpreted the ending of The Graduate, but the joke’s on them: frankly, I don’t think they completely get it either.