NOTE: This spoiler sent in by L who says... This movie is fantastic and complex. However, knowing the plot going in may ruin the movie for you, so only read ahead if you are SURE, you want to know the whole story.
This is NOT a love story. It’s a story about love.
The Intro: “Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) grew up believing that he would never truly be happy unless he found the one. Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel ), the girl, does not share this belief. The only thing she loved was her hair…and how easily she could cut it off.”
The first scene is Tom and Summer sitting on a park bench holding hands with the focus being on Summer’s engagement ring.
The story is told in a non chronological format so for the sake of simplicity here is the chronological:
Tom is in a meeting when his boss (played by Clarke Gregg) introduces the board room to Summer, the new assistant/secretary. Tom works in a greeting card company similar to Hallmark as a copy writer. He comes up with all the slogans for their cards. He is immediately taken by Summer’s beauty.
Tom talks to his friends about how much he likes Summer. While at first he plays things cool, he is convinced she is the one after an exchange in the elevator over their mutual love of the Smiths. He spends two weeks pining over her and executing awkward attempts to initiate conversation but can’t hit a chord. An opportunity arises when Tom’s best friend tells him that the entire office is going to a karaoke bar the following evening.
Tom arrives at the bar as his best friend is singing. He sees Summer and she seems happy to see him. Summer goes up and sings while Tom drinks with his friend and watches Summer. Summer then gets Tom a little drunk and has him sing karaoke. Afterwards, the three sit together and talk about relationships and love, during which Tom and Summer argue over whether or not love is real, with Summer saying it doesn’t while Tom says it does.. The two agree to disagree. While helping Tom’s friend to a cab, Tom’s friend blurts out that Tom likes Summer and the two are left on the sidewalk. Summer asks if it is true and Tom, after some coaxing from Summer, says that he likes her (Summer makes him say “as friends”). Summer calls him very interesting and leaves Tom standing there on the sidewalk. The next day in the copy room, she makes out with him as they are making copies. Once Summer’s copies are done she moves closer to Tom only to shy away from another kiss and walk out.
Summer and Tom go out on and have fun in the city. As they spend more time together, they become closer. Summer shares her most intimate thoughts and stories with, while Tom takes her to his favorite spot in the city and tells her about how he was studying to be an architect before he ran out of money and was forced to work for the Card Company to sustain himself. While the two are out walking around IKEA, they joke about living together and being married. However, as they are about to kiss on a bed in the store, Summer makes it clear that she isn’t looking for anything serious. He goes into the bathroom and convinces himself that it’s just casual fun. He walks out and sees her naked and the two have sex.
He walks out the next morning, dancing and upbeat about the way of the world. He’s in love with Summer and on top of the world. After a singing and dancing scene, Tom arrives at work and starts suggesting high quality copy for cards, all the while thinking of Summer.
Things go well for a few weeks. However, one night in a bar, a random guy starts hitting on Summer. She makes it clear she isn’t interested but he won’t believe she’s with Tom. After insulting him a little more, Tom gets up and punches the guy. He awkwardly smiles at Summer before the guy gets up and beats him down. She takes Tom to her apartment and yells at him since she thought he was not acting cool at all and did it for his own sense of self. Tom starts fighting back. He yells that everything they are doing isn’t a friendship, and that even though she doesn’t want to label things, he thinks that they’re in a relationship because Summer isn’t the only one who gets a say. He storms out.
The two go to bed. Tom contemplates calling her but doesn’t. She comes to his apartment and apologizes. The two have a length heart to heart and share their past relationships. She tells him about her bisexual experience, her first relationship and her relationship with The Puma. He imagines who they are but for the most part, they seem happy.
Weeks pass. Summer and Tom go out and see a movie. She starts crying as she sees the ending of the Graduate, as Dustin Hoffman and Katherine Ross escape a wedding and their looks of joy and excitement slowly vanish. Summer tells Tom that she’s exhausted and wants to sleep, but Tom tells her they should get pancakes. He takes her to get pancakes and Summer blurts out that she thinks they should stop seeing each other. Tom is taken aback and asks why if they were so happy. Summer says that she isn’t happy. As the pancakes arrive, Tom stands up and leaves. Summer tells him not to leave because he is still her best friend.
Tom’s little sister bikes to his apartment where his friends are also waiting. Tom is breaking plates. She makes him stop and explain what happened. He recounts the break up. He is adamant that he doesn’t want to get past her but get her back. His depression worsens and begins to affect his work. His boss calls him in and he asks if Tom’s performance is related to Summer leaving. Tom tries to play it off, but his boss tells him that everyone knows. It is made clear that Summer also quit her job at the card company.
Months pass. One of Tom’s coworkers is getting married. He takes the train to go to the wedding and sees Summer. He tries to hide but she sees him and approaches. They talk and go get a coffee. The entire weekend they spend their time enjoying themselves. At the wedding he asks her to dance and they have a very romantic night together. She invites Tom to a party on at her place.
Tom’s expectations for the night are to make his dreams a reality. However, as he arrives at the party, the differences between his dream night and that night are hauntingly apparent. He barely talks to Summer and drinks most of the night away…until he sees her engagement ring. He sees Summer showing off her ring and her fiancée and loses it. He leaves without a word, and almost bursts into tears.
Tom spends the next 5 days in a catatonic state. He leaves the apartment once to buy milk and Jack Daniels. Eventually he goes back to work. He returns on a Thursday. His best friend reminds him that today is the day they present their pitches for new cards. Halfway through the presentation, Tom decides that his belief if love, fate, and relationships were wrong. He gives the board a passionate speech about how their company is comfortable feeding people bullshit and that they are the reason people have such unrealistic expectations. He quits and leaves. The board is left stunned as his best friend awkwardly claps at his friend’s departure.
Days 467 481 Tom is seen struggling with his depression. He slowly begins to take steps to help himself. He remembers all the time he spent with Summer after his sister suggests that he is only focusing on the good parts and ignoring the bad. He realizes that there was always something Summer was holding back and kept her from truly being “in” the relationship. He begins to take up architecture again. He trashes his apartment and begins drawing on the walls and designing. He slowly builds up a portfolio and makes a list of firms to present his work at. One by One he is rejected. Once the firms dwindle to a handful, Tom begins to lose hope.
Day 482 Tom goes to the bench at his favorite part of the city. He’s gazing down at some of the buildings when Summer calls out to him. She compliments his looks and knows he’s angry. She tells him that she’s happy to see he’s doing ok. Tom confesses that he now realizes that all his ideas about love were wrong. Summer points out that it wasn’t. The girl who didn’t want to be anyone’s girlfriend was now someone’s wife. She tells him that with her husband, she knew what she was never sure of with Tom: that she was in love with him and wanted to spend the rest of her life with him. And she tells Tom that if there’s no destiny, she might have easily never randomly met him in a coffee shop. She tells Tom he was right. Just not about her. She holds his hand and squeezes before telling him that she needs to go. Tom tells her he’s happy that she’s happy, but makes a point not to congratulate her on her marriage. She smiles and leaves.
Day 500 Tom is getting ready to go to an interview and as he sits there, a girl across the waiting room calls out to him and asks if they’ve met. She tells him that she’s seen him sitting on a bench in Tom’s favorite spot, which is coincidentally her favorite spot as well. Tom says he’s never seen her before, so she replies that he clearly wasn’t looking. Tom jokes that since she’s the competition he hopes she doesn’t get the job. She returns the wish. The interviewer calls Tom in, but as he’s walking he turns back and asks the girl to get some coffee afterwards. She tells him that she is meeting someone. However, as Tom turns around, she agrees and says they’ll work it out. Tom smiles and introduces himself. She smiles and introduces herself. Her name is Autumn.
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