So.....500 Days of Summer. Most of us have seen it (I'm sure). It was a "comedy drama film" (so says Wikipedia) that was released in 2009 and took the world by storm. Okay. Maybe not by storm, but it certainty was a surprisingly popular film that many critics considered their vaulted Movie of the Year award. The plot was about the beginning and end of a relationship between 2 young professionals, starred by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel. Joseph plays the character of Tom, a trained architect who works as an artist at a greeting card company; Zooey plays Summer, the new executive assistant to Tom's boss.
Long story made short: they meet, like each other but Summer is non-committal and eventually breaks up with Tom. Tom falls into a depression, made worse when he learns that Summer quickly becomes engaged to another. Her reason is quite the kicker, "[I was sure with him] what I was never sure with you". Tom goes through this rhapsody of melancholy before finally sucking it up, quitting his job at the greeting card company, and returning to pursue his passion of becoming an architect. The film ends as he sets up a date with a girl named Autumn. Deja vu time, Tom?
I'm not a fan of the plot, because I feel it's depressing and doesn't really go anywhere. Tom isn't really enlightened through his experiences with Summer. It's not terrible, but not jaw-dropping either. However, I must admit that the acting by Joseph and Zooey is superb. What I did also like though, was one scene from the film in which the male characters are asked (in a mock-interview) to describe the girl of their dreams. The responses are all pretty predictable until it comes to the character of Paul, a level-headed person who has a girlfriend named Robin. Below is his long-winded but quite remarkable answer:
"I guess I just got lucky, um.. We met in Elementary School, in 7th grade we had the same class schedule, and we just clicked. You know, technically, the girl of my dreams would probably have like, a really bodacious rack, you know probably different hair.. and yeah, you know she'd probably be a little more into sports. But, truthfully, Robin's better. Robin's better than the girl of my dreams. She's real."
What makes his response remarkable is the simplicity-yet-truthfulness behind his answer. While everyone else names qualities they idealize about for their significant other, in the end, reality is superior to the greatest fantasy one can conjure. Paul acknowledges that Robin, his girlfriend, isn't perfect...or at least could be more perfect by having the "bodacious rack" and "different color of hair". But he also takes her as a whole package, instead of trying to break her down into parts. It's the quintessential example of synergy: to Tom, Robin is desirable and attractive because of all her qualities summed up and personified together.
Oftentimes the reason we are drawn to others is not because of their perfection in our eyes, but by their perceived flaws that makes them more like us, more....human. It's being able to like someone in spite of their imperfections, celebrating together their successes and empathizing in their failures. Because in the end, it is the experiences we have together --and not mere physical traits-- that bond one person to another.
Some may view Paul's response as someone who settled, but I don't believe so. We all have different preferences and personal tastes, therefore it is incredibly patronizing to downplay someone else's choice. (Yes, I know Paul is a fictional character). The truth is that we don't really know what we want in a significant other. We may have vague ideas like their looks and personality, but one cannot measure things like chemistry -- even less on their whole being. While men may claim to like women like Jessica Alba and Sofia Vergara and women for the George Cloneys and Brad Pitts of the world, we like them mainly for their physical looks. Ultimately we all know that beauty cannot transcend time. As Paul says so well, the girl of my dreams is the one who is real.