As an independent production, the film was picked up for distribution by Fox Searchlight Pictures and premiered at the 25th Sundance Film Festival. It garnered favorable reviews and became a successful "sleeper hit", earning over $60 million in worldwide returns, far exceeding its $7.5 million budget. Many critics lauded the film as one of the best from 2009 and drew comparisons to other acclaimed films such as Annie Hall (1977) and High Fidelity (2000).
The film received Best Original Screenplay and Best Screenplay awards at the 14th Satellite Awards and 25th Independent Spirit Awards, respectively, as well as two nominations at the 67th Golden Globe Awards: Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy and Best Actor – Musical or Comedy (Gordon-Levitt).
The film is presented in a nonlinear narrative, jumping between various days within the 500 days of Tom and Summer's relationship. There is an on-screen timer showing the day. This is a linear summary of the plot.
On January 8, Tom Hansen meets Summer Finn, his boss's new assistant. Tom is trained as an architect but works as a writer at a greeting card company in Los Angeles. After discovering they have a similar taste in music, they have a conversation about love at a karaoke night; Tom believes in it, but Summer does not. Tom's friend and co-worker McKenzie drunkenly reveals that Tom likes Summer, which Tom asserts is only "as friends", something Summer agrees with. A few days later, Summer kisses Tom in the copy room at work. During the next few months Summer and Tom grow closer.
Tom shows Summer his favorite spot in the city, which overlooks a number of buildings he likes, though the view is somewhat spoiled by parking lots. After several months of dating, both Tom's friends and his preteen half-sister Rachel push him to question Summer where they are in their relationship, though Summer brushes this off, saying that it shouldn't matter if they're both happy. One night, Tom gets into a fight with a man who tries to pick up Summer in a bar, which causes their first argument. They make up and Summer concedes Tom deserves some certainty, but that his demand that she promises to always feel the same way about him would be impossible for anyone to make.
On day 290, they are hanging out in a cafe. Tom wants to go back to Summer's place but she insists on seeing The Graduate and weeps at the ending, which surprises Tom as he'd always thought it was a romantic fairy tale. They visit the record store, but Summer is distracted, appears to have lost interest in Tom, and kisses him good night. Tom tempts her with an offer of pancakes at a diner, where Summer casually announces that the relationship hasn't been working and breaks up with Tom while they are waiting for the food to arrive. Summer wants them to remain friends, but Tom is devastated.
Summer quits her job at the greeting card company. Tom's boss moves him to the consolations department, as his depression is making him unsuitable for happier events. Tom goes on a blind date with a woman named Alison. The date does not go well as he spends it complaining about Summer until an exasperated Alison ends up taking Summer's side. Months later, Tom attends co-worker Millie's wedding and tries to avoid Summer on the train, but she spots him and invites him for coffee. They have a good time at the wedding, dance together, and Summer catches the bouquet. She invites Tom to a party at her apartment and falls asleep on Tom's shoulder on the train ride back. He attends the party hoping to rekindle their relationship but barely gets to talk to Summer and spends most of the night drinking alone, until he spots her engagement ring. Tom leaves, close to tears. He enters a deep depression, only leaving his apartment for alcohol and junk food. After a few days, he returns to work with a hangover and, after an emotional outburst, quits his job. Rachel tells Tom that she does not believe Summer was "the one" and that his depression is being worsened by the fact that he is only looking back on the positive aspects of their relationship.
One day he suddenly finds the energy to get out of bed and rededicates himself to architecture, something Summer had pressured him to do. He makes a list of firms he wants to work for, assembles a portfolio, and goes to job interviews. On day 488, Summer is waiting for Tom at his favorite spot in the city and they talk. Summer explains that Tom was right about true love existing; he was just wrong about it being with her. She says she got married because she felt sure about her husband, something she wasn't with Tom. Summer puts her hand on Tom's and says she is glad to see he is doing well. As she leaves, Tom tells her he really hopes she is happy.
Twelve days later, on Wednesday, May 23, Tom attends a job interview and meets a girl who is also applying for the same job. He finds that she shares his favorite spot and dislike for the parking lots. As he is entering the interview, he invites her for coffee afterwards. She politely declines, then changes her mind. Her name is Autumn. The on-screen clock winds back to its start.Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Tom Hansen, a trained architect who works as a writer at a greeting card company.
Zooey Deschanel as Summer Finn, assistant to Tom's boss and Tom's love interest.
Geoffrey Arend as McKenzie, Tom's co-worker at the greeting card company.
Chloë Grace Moretz as Rachel Hansen, Tom's younger half-sister.
Matthew Gray Gubler as Paul, one of Tom's friends.
Clark Gregg as Vance, Tom's boss.
Patricia Belcher as Millie
Rachel Boston as Alison, Tom's blind date.
Minka Kelly as Autumn
Maile Flanagan as Rhoda
Yvette Nicole Brown as Vance's New Secretary
Olivia Bagg as Young Summer
Richard McGonagle as Narrator
Harrison Ford as Han Solo (cameo)
The style of film is presented in a nonlinear narrative. Each scene is introduced using a title card showing which of the 500 days it is. Co-writer of the film Scott Neustadter admitted the film was based on a real romance. Neustadter explains that when he met the real girl who inspired the character Summer as a student at the London School of Economics in 2002, he was rebounding from a bad breakup back home, and promptly fell "crazily, madly, hopelessly in love" with the girl who "returned his kisses but not his ardor." The ending of the relationship was "painfully and unforgettably awful," which prompted him to co-write the film with Michael H. Weber. When Neustadter later showed the script to Summer's real life counterpart, she said she related more to the Tom character. Weber also stated that, "we've all been in the trenches of love, we've all gone through the highs and lows, so Scott and I felt that the only way to tell this story was to come at it from a completely real place. It was pretty interesting for us because Scott was just going through a break-up and I was in a long-term relationship, so we each brought a totally opposite perspective, living it and not living it, and I think that tension helped to bring out more of the comedy".
Director Marc Webb has described the film as more of a "coming of age" story as opposed to a "rom-com". He stated, "We arrive at a different conclusion, for one thing. Plus, most romantic comedies are more loyal to a formula than to emotional truth. It's about happiness, and learning that you'll find it within yourself, rather than in the big blue eyes of the girl in the cubicle down the hall. I wanted to make an unsentimental movie and an uncynical movie. In my mind, I wanted it to be something you could dance to. That's why we put a parenthesis in the title – it's like a pop song in movie form. It's not a big film. It's not about war or poverty. It's about 500 days in a young guy's relationship, but it's no less deserving of scrutiny. When your heart is first broken, it consumes you. And it's an emotion I wanted to make a movie about, before I forgot how it felt". Webb also stated that Deschanel's character, Summer, is based on a stock character type; "Yes, Summer is an immature view of a woman. She's Tom's view of a woman. He doesn't see her complexity and the consequence for him is heartbreak. In Tom's eyes, Summer is perfection, but perfection has no depth. Summer's not a girl, she's a phase." Gordon-Levitt explained that he was drawn to the role of Tom because of his relatability to the character. "I've had my heart broken before. Truly, truly broken. But when I look back at me in my heartbroken phase, it's pretty hilarious, because it felt so much more extreme than it really was. One of the things I love about 500 Days of Summer is that it doesn't make light of what we go through in romances, but it is honest about it and shows it for what it is, which is often profoundly funny".
David Ng of the Los Angeles Times describes architecture as a star of the film. Tom is seen reading Alain de Botton's The Architecture of Happiness. The film was originally set in San Francisco but was later moved to Los Angeles and the script rewritten to make better use of the location. Buildings used include the Los Angeles Music Center (which includes the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion) and the towers of California Plaza. The older Fine Arts Building is featured in the film, in a scene where Tom shows it to Summer and mentions its designers, Walker and Eisen, two of his favorite architects, although he incorrectly gives the partners' names as "Walker and Eisner."
Christopher Hawthorne of the Los Angeles Times describes the film as having "finely honed sense of taste" to include the Bradbury Building where Tom goes for his job interview.
To help promote the film, Gordon-Levitt and Deschanel starred in the debut episode of Microsoft Zune and Mean Magazine's "Cinemash" series. In the episode, they "mash" the characters from the film Sid and Nancy with story elements from 500 Days of Summer.
Marc Webb created a music video as a companion piece to the film, titled "The Bank Heist". It features Deschanel and Gordon-Levitt dancing to "Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?", a song by Deschanel's folk group She & Him. Webb remarked, "when we didn't include Zooey in the dance sequence [in 500 Days], she was a little heartbroken and I felt like I needed to remedy that."
The film made its debut at the 25th Sundance Film Festival. It proved a huge success and received a standing ovation from festival crowds upon screening. In Europe, 500 Days of Summer premiered in Switzerland as the opening film of the 62nd Locarno Film Festival.
Filmed independently, it was picked up for distribution by Fox Searchlight Pictures and opened in the United States and Canada on July 17, 2009, later expanding to wide release on August 7, 2009. It was later also released on September 2, 2009, in Ireland and the United Kingdom, and opened in Australia on September 17, 2009.
Upon the film's initial limited release in the U.S, it was expected to become the "breakout indie hit of the summer". Later, during its full opening weekend, the film grossed twenty-seven times its original budget cost, making it one of the most successful "sleeper hits" of the year. By September 8, the film had taken in $1.9 million from 318 screens in the United Kingdom. This was regarded as a successful five-day opening by Fox Searchlight, earning around half as much as the science-fiction blockbuster District 9, which took in $3.5 million. As of February 25, 2010 the film has grossed $32,391,374 in the United States and Canada and $60,722,734 worldwide.
500 Days of Summer received positive reviews, with critics particularly praising the screenplay and Gordon-Levitt's performance. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film is "Certified Fresh" with a rating of 86%, based on 215 reviews with an average rating of 7.6/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "A clever, offbeat romantic comedy, 500 Days of Summer is refreshingly honest and utterly charming." Later, at the website's year-end "Golden Tomato Awards", which honored the best reviewed films of 2009, the film placed second in the romantic category. On Metacritic, the film received an average score of 76/100 based on 36 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film four stars out of four. He described the film as "a delightful comedy, alive with invention". He particularly praised the strong performances of Gordon-Levitt and Deschanel and summarized his review by adding, "Here is a rare movie that begins by telling us how it will end and is about how the hero has no idea why". Premiere also awarded the film four stars out of four, stating "Much like the actual summer (the season, not the character), we never wanted it to end".
Michael Ordoña of the Los Angeles Times gave a positive review. He wrote, "500 Days of Summer is something seldom seen: an original romantic comedy. It bristles with energy, emotion and intellect, as it flits about the dizzying highs and weeping-karaoke lows of a passionate entanglement". Dana Stevens of Slate also praised the film and described it as "a keeper. It's fun both to watch and to talk about afterward, and it possesses the elusive rom-com sine qua non: two equally appealing leads who bounce wonderfully off each other".
Lou Lumenick of the New York Post awarded the film three stars out of four. He praised the directing of Marc Webb, stating, "it's the oldest bittersweet story in the book, of course, but music-video director Marc Webb approaches his feature debut with great confidence, flair and a minimum of schmaltz. That's the whole guy-centric point of 500 Days of Summer, though. Sometimes you never, ever truly figure out why these mysterious creatures break your heart".
Entertainment Weekly critic Owen Gleiberman gave the film an "A", and also praised the originality of the story; "Most romantic comedies have half a dozen situations at best: Meet Cute, Infatuation, Pop Song Montage, Contrived Mix-Up, Angry Breakup, and Final Clinch. 500 Days of Summer is about the many unclassifiable moments in between. It's a feat of star acting, and it helps make 500 Days not just bitter or sweet but everything in between".
Film Threat critic Scott Knopf gave the film a maximum five-star rating and called the script "fantastic". He also lauded the film's innovative nature; "Of course they meet. Of course they fall for each other. Of course there are problems. It sounds cliché but what's remarkable about 500 Days is how the film explores new ways to tell the world's oldest story". He concluded that the film was "the best romantic comedy since Love Actually."
Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave the film three and a half stars out of four. He wrote, "Boy meets girl, boy loses girl. It's been done to emo death. That's why the sublimely smart-sexy-joyful-sad 500 Days of Summer hits you like a blast of pure romantic oxygen" and concludes: "500 Days is otherwise a different kind of love story: an honest one that takes a piece out of you". IGN critic Eric Goldman scored the film at 9.0/10 upon his review of the Blu-ray release. He praised the film as "one of the best of 2009" and particularly complimented the innovative nature of the story in an often clichéd genre; "500 Days of Summer proved there is a way to bring something fresh and new to one of the most cliché and often frustrating genres – the romantic comedy". The New York Times and Empire gave the film 4/5.
The A.V. Club also gave the film favourable reviews with a B- grade.
NPR was more dismissive: "For all its rhetorical whimsy and hipster dressings, 500 Days of Summer is a thoroughly conservative affair, as culturally and romantically status quo as any Jennifer Aniston vehicle." Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal was also more critical, calling it, "synthetic and derivative, a movie that's popping with perceptions while searching for a style."
British newspaper The Times gave a mixed review. Despite Toby Young awarding the film three stars out of five, he critiqued, "It is hardly the freshest romantic comedy of past 20 years. Taking the best bits from other movies and rearranging them in a non-linear sequence does not make for an original film." The Guardian film critic Peter Bradshaw said the film was "let down by sitcom cliches, and by being weirdly incurious about the inner life of its female lead."
Mark Adams of the Daily Mirror, though, gave the film a glowing review, awarding it a full five stars, and writing, "It is a modern romance for grown-ups... a sweet-natured, funny, deeply-romantic tale that brims with energy and is blessed with top-notch performances by Deschanel and Gordon-Levitt, who are both charming and have real chemistry". Chris Tookey of the Daily Mail was also impressed and described the film as "delightful and endearing", awarding four stars out of five. He wrote, "For the young, this is a worthwhile cautionary tale. If you're of more mature vintage, it will make you remember how it felt to be naive, energised by first love and mortified when that certain someone turned out not to love you nearly as much as you would have liked".
Jordan Mattos of the World Socialist Web Site gave the film a negative review, stating that its omission of "the material realities and complexities that play a hand in determining the fate of contemporary relationships... comes at too high a price". He praised Deschanel's performance as "honest, and terrifying in its calculating precision" but condemned the film for not taking "a searching look" at the development of Summer's personality.
Chelsey Aquino of Racket Magazine gave the film a positive review, granting the film a score of 8.5 out of 10. She wrote "500 Days was a breath of fresh air; they weren't afraid of showing the pear-shaped, more real and complex side of romance versus all the old clichés." Praise was also given, complimenting how 500 Days of Summer was "a rare kind of film that transcends its genre and the stereotypes that it's often associated with."
The film was also included in several "Top Ten" year end lists for 2009 by various film critics.
Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber received numerous awards for their screenplay; including the 2009 Hollywood Film Festival's Hollywood Breakthrough Screenwriter Award on October 26, 2009, the Satellite Award for Best Original Screenplay, the Southeastern Film Critics Association Award for Best Original Screenplay (with the film also being named in the Top Ten Films of the Year), as well as the Las Vegas Film Critics Society Award for Best Screenplay.
Alan Edward Bell won the San Diego Film Critics Society Award for Best Editing, as well as the film being named one of the ten best movies of the year by the National Board of Review Awards 2009. The film also received two nominations at the 67th Golden Globe Awards announced on December 15, 2009, for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy and for Joseph Gordon-Levitt for Best Actor – Musical or Comedy. It has been nominated for four Independent Spirit Awards and won the award for Best Screenplay.
Two soundtrack albums were released for 500 Days of Summer. The first, consisting of various pop songs from the film, was released through Sire Records and reached no. 42 on the Billboard 200 sales chart. Andrew Leahey of Allmusic rated the album three and a half stars out of five, saying "With music playing such an integral role in the story line, it's refreshing to see that the accompanying soundtrack does its job well, distilling the characters' record collections (not to mention the movie's quirky, nostalgic ambiance) into one eclectic track list." The second album consists of the film's musical score, composed by Mychael Danna and Rob Simonsen.
All tracks written by Mychael Danna and Rob Simonsen.