This is a story of boy meets girl.
The boy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and the girl, Zooey Deschanel, co-starred in Marc Webb’s deconstructed romantic comedy (500) Days of Summer in 2009 and met up exactly 10 years and one week after the indie rom-com’s Sundance premiere to rewatch it together. Luckily, they seemed to have a better grasp on the film than a certain lovestruck greeting-card writer did on The Graduate.
Day 488: Deschanel and Gordon-Levitt sit on a couch, munching popcorn, as Summer and Tom sit on a park bench, touching hands. The narrator warns: “This is not a love story.”
ZOOEY DESCHANEL (Summer Finn): This is a movie with zero dramatic irony. Zero. It is 100 percent from Tom’s point of view, which we’ve talked about before, but it’s one thing people very much misunderstand about the movie. They think Summer’s a villain.
JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT (Tom Hansen): And a lot of it has to do with this voiceover, and I think that’s sort of part of the point, that the voiceover sounds authoritative, so you believe that it’s true. We all think that our perspective is authoritative, and Tom thinks that his perspective is authoritative. But life’s actually a lot more subjective than that.
DESCHANEL: And also, it’s like, the moment she starts expressing herself — the moment she starts being like, “Okay, I can trust you, I’ll tell you about myself” — the voiceover drowns her out.
GORDON-LEVITT: And starts talking about Tom! If that voice is Tom’s voice, that means that while Summer is telling him about her dream, he is just thinking about how special he is.
DESCHANEL: Which is kind of cool, like, it’s a cool storytelling device. I love the movie, but it’s interesting how much it draws people into his perspective.
GORDON-LEVITT: I think a really actually fun thing to do is try to watch it and just put yourself in Summer’s shoes the whole time. This is sort of autobiographical of [co-writer Scott] Neustadter’s life. He explicitly has said this is something that pretty much happened to him — but it’s from his point of view.
Day 290: Summer dumps Tom over pancakes, justifying the breakup with the evocative argument that “We’ve been like Sid and Nancy for months now.” (She’s Sid. He’s Nancy.)
GORDON-LEVITT: We made a little video…
DESCHANEL: Yes, we did Sid and Nancy!
GORDON-LEVITT: It’s the only time I ever thought maybe I should shave my legs, ‘cause I didn’t have pants on when I was playing Nancy.
DESCHANEL: I think you had stockings, though?
GORDON-LEVITT: I think actually that was just my hairy legs, and you thought it was stockings.
Day 28: Cut to the early days of Summer, when the whole office goes to karaoke and she sings “Sugar Town” before honestly and unambiguously telling Tom that she doesn’t like to be in a relationship and would rather be “free and independent.” Just saying!
DESCHANEL: By the way, I’ve done karaoke with Joe, and he’s, like, no joke. [To Gordon-Levitt] You once tore a curtain down at karaoke! I think you might have gotten kicked offstage!
GORDON-LEVITT: Yeah, well, it was a grand exit.
DESCHANEL: Were you singing…
GORDON-LEVITT: I’m pretty sure it was The Black Crowes? “Hard to Handle”? That was in my younger days when I just thought a performance would be better as long as I just went for it as hard as I possibly could. The harder I went, the better it would be.
DESCHANEL: There was, like, some tough dancing.
GORDON-LEVITT: Well, it’s rock.
DESCHANEL: Yes, it was very rock.
GORDON-LEVITT: What’s funny about you singing karaoke in this movie, though, is you had to pretend like you were not as good a singer as you really are.
DESCHANEL: We had to pick this song because there was not much vocal range.
GORDON-LEVITT: Because Summer Finn shouldn’t be, like, a phenomenal singer. But you hitting that note — Summer Finn would not really hit that low note. You’re so good at that! I remember you telling me about this, that the low notes are often underappreciated, especially with female vocalists.
DESCHANEL: I actually think live low notes are harder to hit, because if you’re nervous or anything, it’s harder to relax to hit those. It’s easier to push up.
GORDON-LEVITT: Relaxing is obviously not what I’m good at, because I tear curtains down when I’m karaoke-ing to The Black Crowes.
DESCHANEL: Listen, you were putting on a show for more than the four people that were in that karaoke. It was definitely for an arena. It was an arena performance.
GORDON-LEVITT: An arena in my head. That arena follows me around. They were in the car last night.
DESCHANEL: This, by the way — this is key! She is representing her point of view here.
GORDON-LEVITT: Summer is completely honest the entire movie.
DESCHANEL: I’m just so surprised when women will be like, “I hated your character in that movie!” I’m like, really? She said everything from the beginning! But I think it’s also a testament to how, like, adorable you are in the movie. Everyone’s like, “What?! Why would you turn him down? He’s so cute!”
Day 34: Tom and Summer go shopping and play house at IKEA. Lying together on a showroom bed — an ANEBODA, by the looks of it — she tells him that she isn’t looking for anything serious.
DESCHANEL: I always watch things and go, “I would do that differently now.” But you know, it’s who you are at the time that you do it, and I always have to think, “Well, I respect that I made that choice then.”
GORDON-LEVITT: That’s a healthy attitude. I more just beat my younger self up in my mind.
DESCHANEL: At least we’re not watching something I did when I was 19.
GORDON-LEVITT: We could! We could watch that movie that we did together when you were 19! Manic was the first movie that we did together.
DESCHANEL: So we were already pals.
GORDON-LEVITT: And I think that’s a big part of why it turned out so well, because we were like, really comfy.
DESCHANEL: We had so much fun — we had the best time making this movie. We were dancing in the makeup trailer every day.
GORDON-LEVITT: Every lunchtime!
DESCHANEL: I always watch this, too, and I think, she’s so much cooler than I am. So it was like, I could only play that cool for that time that they were rolling, and then I’m not. I’m not that cool.
Day 260: Speaking of being cool, here’s Summer and Tom, sitting on a picnic blanket in a park, yelling the word “penis” at increasing volumes.
GORDON-LEVITT: I wonder if this did really happen with Scott.
DESCHANEL: I was like, who plays this game? I don’t play this game.
GORDON-LEVITT: Now people do this. People go to that park and do this.
Day 403: Summer and Tom are broken up — Sid and Nancy, if you recall — when they run into each other on the train headed to their co-worker’s wedding. They reconnect on the ride and dance together at the reception.
DESCHANEL: This was fun because we got to go to San Diego and then back on the train, and I. Love. The. Train.
GORDON-LEVITT: And that train is so beautiful.
DESCHANEL: Okay, that dress was so tight and I couldn’t eat that day.
GORDON-LEVITT: That’s the moment in the movie theater, though, I remember, where you’ll hear all the female voices in particular just sigh.
DESCHANEL: [sighing] Oh, that dress! It was a vintage dress, and it was [from] back when people wore girdles, I think, ‘cause it was tight.
Day 408: Tom goes to Summer’s rooftop party. On the left side of the screen, we see what he expects from the evening (to win her back). On the right, we see what really happens (he doesn’t).
GORDON-LEVITT: This is one of the more brilliant turns of filmmaking, the reality/expectations.
DESCHANEL: Yeah. This is one of the things people most seem to remember. It’s almost, like, a trope that’s carried on now. I think people use it to explain a certain kind of feeling.
GORDON-LEVITT: Well, it’s such a common thing, especially with love. You develop your ideal, your expectations, what you want, what you want the world to be…
DESCHANEL: And yes, we shot it all at the same time!
GORDON-LEVITT: Look at L.A.!
DESCHANEL: It looks amazing.
GORDON-LEVITT: Zooey and I are both L.A. natives, and people s— on L.A. all the time. And you know what? L.A. can be gorgeous.
DESCHANEL: L.A. is gorgeous.
GORDON-LEVITT: And I love that Marc Webb really showed that.
DESCHANEL: I like the subtle things, like when you walk in on expectations and everyone smiles and waves, and the reality, like, nobody does — which is reality, that nobody is looking at you when you come into a party and you don’t know anyone! This is a great song for this scene, too.
GORDON-LEVITT: [quoting the lyrics] “I’m the hero of this story” — that’s just what we were talking about! We all make stories of our lives and we’re the center of it, and we’re the hero.
Day 408, reality: Summer is engaged.
DESCHANEL: NOOOOOOO! IT’S A RIIIIING! DON’T DO IIIIIT!
Day 488, again: Tom sits on the park bench, where Summer finds him. They say goodbye.
GORDON-LEVITT: I’ve always enjoyed this question of whether Summer’s real in this scene. I think this is, like, him sitting on the bench and sort of coming to internal peace. That’s what I think this is.
DESCHANEL: This really feels like playing grown-ups too. We look like babies! Babies!
GORDON-LEVITT: Yeah, I know. We were living in an era where people watched DVDs.
DESCHANEL: Yes, so long ago.
GORDON-LEVITT: Did you do that on purpose? Did you put this movie on a DVD just to bring us back?