He's Just Not That into You Is Engaging Yet Disturbing
- Friday, February 06, 2009
DVD Release Date: June 2, 2009
Theatrical Release Date: February 6, 2009
Rating: PG-13 (for sexual content and brief strong language)
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Run Time: 129 min.
Director: Ken Kwapis
Actors: Ginnifer Goodwin, Kevin Connolly, Scarlett Johansson, Bradley Cooper, Justin Long, Ben Affleck, Jennifer Aniston, Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Connelly, Busy Philipps
Inspired by a catchphrase from an episode of Sex and the City that later evolved into a blunt, best-selling primer for the lovelorn stamped with the much-coveted endorsement of Oprah, He’s Just Not That into You is now getting the big-screen treatment.
And really, the timing couldn’t be better with Valentine’s Day’s arrival only a week later. In theory, if someone unhappily single successfully mastered all of the movie’s so-called relationship principles, well, he/she still may have enough time to score a date for the candy-coated, card-giving festivities.
Boasting an all-star cast, the criss-crossing storylines roughly follows the same format of 2003’s Love Actually. While that structure definitely helps alleviate boredom because it forces the audience to keep up, there is still considerable excess in the flick’s two-hour running time—especially considering the source material was a relatively short self-help book. In fact, some of the lesser-developed scenarios could’ve been eliminated completely, and the film probably would’ve been the better for it.
Despite the liberties the filmmakers take time-wise, however, He’s Just Not That into You still serves as an insightful yet equally disturbing barometer of our culture’s perspective on relationships.
First off, we’re introduced to Gigi (a standout Ginnifer Goodwin), who the bulk of the story is dedicated to. After going on what she believes is a pretty successful first date with Conor (Kevin Connolly from TV’s Entourage), she starts obsessing BIG TIME (mostly at the office where she apparently has infinite free time to do so) when he doesn’t call her back. Deciding that maybe he lost her number, got hit by a cab or simply was out of town, Gigi stages a “chance encounter” by heading to his favorite after-work hangout, a nearby bar managed by Alex (Justin Long, of “I’m a Mac” commercial fame). As Gigi patiently waits at the bar, Alex strikes up a conversation and discovers the guy she’s waiting for just happens to be his roommate. Knowing Conor’s dating habits all too well, Alex immediately informs her that a second date isn’t exactly in the cards. Alex says that if a guy hasn’t called within a couple of days, it’s because he “has no interest in seeing you again.”
Despite his particularly forthright delivery that doesn’t spare her feelings, Gigi appreciates Conor’s honesty, and they eventually forge a friendship. And when other dating dilemmas inevitably arise, Gigi calls Alex and eventually learns that men aren’t quite as mysterious as she once believed.
Meanwhile, Gigi’s brother-in-law, Ben (Bradley Cooper), has a chance encounter of the truly unplanned variety when he meets a yoga instructor/wannabe singer (Scarlett Johansson) in the local grocery store’s checkout line. Taken by her beauty and flirtatious manner, he suddenly remembers (gasp!) he’s married when she casually asks for his number. But a little rationalization goes a long way, so Ben decides they can “talk business” sometime if she called him at work. After all, he just happens to have contacts that might be helpful for her singing career.
But Ben’s wedded status isn’t enough of a deterrent for Anna to pursue him, especially when her dippy friend Mary (Drew Barrymore) intervenes with a story about a guy she knew who was married for a long time but met his “true soul mate” at a church event (hmmm … ) several years later. This new pair was “so meant to be” that the guy immediately divorced his wife and has been happily married to the new girl ever since. But when Anna still hesitates a little, Mary tells her she can’t let an opportunity for true love, wife or not, pass her by.
Of course, the screenwriters don’t exactly give the audience much to root for with Ben's and Janine’s (Jennifer Connelly) marriage. Several times we’re reminded that Ben only got married to his college sweetheart because she’d issued an ultimatum. And whenever they’re together, it never looks like much fun. Janine is so obsessed with the new house the couple just bought that the only conversations they have seem to revolve around what type of flooring or paint colors they should go with. If not discussing the house’s decor, the topic turns to whether Ben has started smoking again, which he lies about to Janine again and again. And once Ben cheats with Anna and tells Janine as much while shopping together at Home Depot, Janine doesn’t even get that upset, much to Ben’s chagrin when he assumed it was the fast track to divorce.
When marriage looks about as appealing as a root canal, it’s no wonder these people are struggling to stay together. And with Neil (Ben Affleck) and Beth (Jennifer Aniston), marriage is always the annoying elephant in the room. Living together for seven years now, Beth wants to solidify their commitment to each other, (her sudden need to walk down the aisle is never really explained—a different sort of seven-year itch, perhaps?). On the other hand, Neil believes things are great. He “loves her” and they already have the perfect life, so why mess that up by getting married? Once Beth eventually decides she isn’t going to waste any more time with Neil, though, he inexplicably comes around because he can’t be happy if she’s not happy. And while this sounds all romantic and sweet as he’s down on one knee with a puppy dog look in his eyes and a sparkly engagement ring in hand, the very core of what he’s saying is incredibly selfish. Instead of putting her happiness first, it’s really all about his.
Sadly, that’s why most of the relationship advice in He’s Just Not That into You rings so hollow. Sure, there’s a right way and a wrong way to behave in dating relationships, and desperation like Gigi’s isn’t exactly an aphrodisiac. And for single girls who’ve read a little too much into a guy’s behavior and mistaken that friendship for romance, the movie is a sympathetic ear with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. Without the benefit of a relationship model where God is in the center and others are placed above yourself, however, there simply isn’t much incentive for fulfilling, long-lasting commitment once real life kicks in. All these girls in the movie want to get married, but why? So they can end up with a guy like Ben? It’s difficult to believe that marriage is the ultimate goal when they could just enjoy one romantic spark after the next and move once the going gets tough. Or when he (or she’s) just not that into you. But the story tries to convince those watching that true love is possible, yet selfishness tends to always prevail.
- Drugs/Alcohol: Several scenes take place in a bar with social drinking involved. One particular character lies to his wife about whether he’s still smoking cigarettes.
- Language/Profanity: The Lord’s name is taken in vain on several occasions, plus a steady stream of profanities throughout, including one use of the “f” word.
- Sex/Nudity: Sex is a frequent topic of conversation. In fact, one of the flick’s dating tenants is that “if he’s not sleeping with you,” well then “he’s not that into you.” Despite his earlier reservations about cheating on his wife, Ben engages in an extra-marital affair with Anna. In one of the scenes, Anna strips down to her bra and panties and begins seducing Ben at work, until his wife knocks on the door. To try and up the sexy factor of their marriage, (it’s mentioned several times that the couple’s sex life is practically non-existent) Janine also tries to have sex with Ben while he’s at work with Anna listening in a nearby closet. In another scene when Ben and Anna decide they're “just friends,” Anna strips down and jumps into the pool naked (the top of her breasts are shown), causing Ben to say that she “may be the best friend I’ve ever had.” Also, Beth and Neil live together before they’re married, Gigi is shown making out with a couple of her respective dates (with nothing more than kissing shown), and there are several gay jokes and innuendos.
- Violence: Nothing that’s not of the comedic variety.
Christa Banister is a full-time freelancer writer, specializing in music, movies and books-related reviews and interviews and is the author of two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers. Based in St. Paul, Minn., she also weighs in on various aspects of pop culture on her personal blog.
For more information, including her upcoming book signings and sample chapters of her novels, check out her Website.
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