To many outsiders, Los Angeles is really the way Hollywood has depicted it -- a golden beach city of unapologetic superficiality. But the movie, 500 Days of Summer, revealed that it's something much more than that.
I don’t love the movie 500 Days of Summer, which saw for the first time the quirky made-in-heaven pairing of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel, because of its nonlinear story-telling or because of its idiosyncrasies. Those are just the icing on the cake. I love it for one simple reason: it made visible something that has been cunningly concealed by Hollywood – the real Los Angeles.
When a friend of mine from New York, who up until recently had this inexplicable distaste for Los Angeles, told me that he loves the movie, I immediately jumped at the chance to take him on a 500 Days of Summer walking tour so he could see first —hand the different sides and under-appreciated parts of LA, which were beautifully shown in the movie.
To many outsiders like him, Los Angeles is really just a larger production of The Hills or Baywatch or whatever sunny California movie they’ve recently seen about hot girls and surfer dudes living in an expensive summerhouse by the beach. It’s not their fault really. The movie industry has “Hollywoodized” LA so much that in popular culture, it’s become an unapologetically superficial city of beautiful beaches, palm tree-lined streets, tanned bleach-blonde girls, expensive convertibles, and red carpet premiers.
People are barely aware that that Hollywoodized idea of LA is really, in actuality, only but a small fraction of the real city.
Instead of following the norm, 500 Days of Summer did something wonderful. It skipped on this Hollywoodized version of Los Angeles, and instead showcased its finest architectural structures, which was more than a breath of fresh air. And for good measure, it revealed that no, we don’t just lounge in the sand all day, sipping fruity umbrella drinks, and getting our tan on. It revealed that in LA, we do like sitting in parks, seeing old films in old movie theaters, and spending time in record stores and art galleries; that we do like quality non-Starbucks coffee; that we do love Karaokes; and that yes, many of us really DO love The Smiths.
It showed that Los Angeles is more than just glitz and fake glamour; that under our sunny blue skies is a melting pot of cultures that extend from mainstream to indie, from American to Asian and Middle Eastern to European. It showed that beyond our beaches and piers are old romantic architecture that reminds people of the city’s past grandeur, of the fact that it wasn’t always about Hollywood and movie stars. It showed that in the midst of the few beautiful tanned ones are real people who do not just spend their days basking under the sun but instead immerse themselves in their art or their profession and live normal lives.
It revealed the real city that I have, over the years, come to know and love. And for that, I will always be grateful.
On the photos above: Tom Hansen’s (Gordon-Levitt) favorite spot at Angels Knoll, a small unassuming park overlook; Angel’s Flight; view from the Grand Central Market; the romantically and classically beautiful Bradbury Building, which has been featured in many popular films, videos, and shows; “LA’s first skyscraper” (Tom Hansen, 500 Days of Summer), Braly Block; Hotel Barclay, where Tom and his friends hung out; Old Bank DVD, which served as the record store in the movie; inside Old Bank DVD.