He’s Just Not That Into You

Over a year ago, I had lunch with a close female friend I’ve known for over 20 years.  She’s very easy to talk to, very smart, good humoured and, if my memory is good, tried out for Mensa once.  Anyway, after we ate, we walked past a movie theatre and after noticing that He’s Just Not That Into You was playing, she began to rave about the book of the same name, arguing that it spoke to her and changed her life, as well as that of some of her female pals.  I looked at her like she was completely out of her mind which didn’t in any way dissuade her from believing so fervently in what she was saying.  Needless to say, I had no interest in becoming a convert.  The whole idea of the book sounded more than a little condescending.
Having now screened He’s Just Not That Into You, a fictional ensemble piece loosely based on the philosophies of the how-to bestseller, I doubt I’m wrong.  From start to finish, this is an immensely unfunny, predictable, deeply insulting snorefest featuring some of the dumbest characters ever seen in a movie.
First, there’s Gigi (Ginnifer Goodwin).  Despite being a cutie pie, she can’t seem to find a decent man to have a relationship with.  It takes very little time to understand why.  After going on a first date with nice guy real estate agent, Conor (Entourage’s Kevin Connelly), she’s convinced there’ll be a second one.  (How quickly she forgets that she sounded like a desperate insecure dork over their drinks together.)  Over the next several days, she constantly checks her phone for a call that isn’t forthcoming.  At one point, she even leaves an embarrassing message on his voicemail that goes on and on and on leaving the wrong kind of impression.  (More on poor, desperate Gigi in a moment.)
What she doesn’t know is that Conor really wants Anna (Scarlett Johansson), a sexy, aspiring singer who constantly gives him mixed signals.  They had a one-night stand that meant more to him than to her and yet, she keeps calling him and hanging out with him, totally screwing with his head.  Part of the problem is that Anna has her eyes on someone else.  Early on, during a cell conversation with Conor, she meets Ben (Bradley Cooper) in line at a grocery store.  He just happens to have music business connections.  (They fall in lust at first sight.)  Unfortunately, he’s married to Janine (Jennifer Connelly) who works with the annoying Gigi.  The airheaded Anna pursues a totally inappropriate romance with him, nonetheless.  (Good thinking, kid!  No ill can come from that!)
Their colleague, Beth (Jennifer Aniston), has been happily unmarried, to use Gene Simmons’ term, to Neil (Ben Affleck) for seven years.  Then, after a dopey conversation at work with Gigi and Janine, she suddenly demands marriage of the poor guy who has told her repeatedly he has no desire to do that.  (He’s been completely monogamous with her the whole time they’ve been a couple.)  Unsurprisingly, they have a totally unnecessary split.
Back to Gigi.  Knowing that Conor frequents a local watering hole, she plans on hoping to "accidentally" bump into him there.  But the owner, Alex (Justin Long), who just happens to be pals with the gay-friendly real estate agent, tells the pathetic one that he’s not coming.  Alex basically represents Greg Behrendt, the co-author of the original book, patiently explaining to Gigi why these incompatible men she’s supposedly attracted to aren’t returning the favour.  Even if you’ve never seen a movie before, you know pretty much what will happen with these two.
Right from the start, it’s hard to accept the film’s basic premise.  Little girls are given bad advice by their mothers regarding the "signals" boys give them (you know, abusive behaviour is a sign of affection, to site one idiotic, not to mention dangerous bit of wisdom) which is continually reinforced by their close girlfriends throughout their lives.  (In the opening scene, we learn this is a global epidemic.)  And this explains why they can’t find long lasting love.  What a ridiculous, simplistic cop-out and what a sexist philosophy, too.  If you’re a teenage girl (or a grown woman, for that matter) and you follow this line of thinking once and it blows up in your face, wouldn’t you abandon it outright in order to avoid getting seriously hurt a second time?  Why torture yourself over and over again for nothing?  And honestly, how many mothers are feeding their impressionable daughters this bullshit?  (It has to be a minority, if that.)  And who are these supposed friends who are continually crushing their hopes for happiness?
The talented cast do what they can but they’re stuck with leaden material.  You have to feel for the lovely Ginnifer Goodwin.  She was so funny and charming in the uneven Win A Date With Tad Hamilton!, it’s hard to believe she’s saddled with such a pill of a character to play this time around.  I cringed during much of her screen time.  Justin Long is good as Alex, but he’s not exactly charming, thanks to some questionable dialogue he’s given to say.  (Comparing Goodwin to a basset hound is about as loathsome a comparison as you can get.  No woman wants to hear that.)
Scarlett Johansson did a nice job in A Love Song For Bobby Long but in this movie, she’s reduced to playing an evil, indecisive bimbo who in one unintentionally hilarious scene blows up at the charmless Bradley Cooper for, get this, having sex with his own wife!  Granted, she arrives at his office while Johansson and Cooper are just getting started with their own roll in the hay (Connelly doesn’t suspect anything even though she knows about the other woman) which leads her to hide in the closet but, oh, never mind.
Ben Affleck and Jennifer Aniston have a nice chemistry but because of their baffling break-up, Aniston has to put up with a lot of pitying remarks from her family during their separation.  You have to wait nearly the entire film before the inevitable happens.  All I will say about that is that the movie makes its most appealing character, the only one who has a sensible outlook on loving relationships, a total sell-out.
As appalling as He’s Just Not That Into You is, it does have a couple genuinely funny moments.  Drew Barrymore’s character, a cute, sweet gal who does the classifieds for a gay publication, gets serenaded by a rock singer on her voicemail.  Unfortunately, he leaves another message singing another woman’s name.  Oops.  And then there’s the guy who sits next to the depressed Aniston at her sister’s reception.  He might be the funniest Wiccan in cinematic history.
Beyond some cool music on the soundtrack (R.E.M., Black Crowes, Keane) and a third act romance that should’ve happened sooner, there is little holding this monstrosity together.  It is too long (a little over two hours), too slow, rarely funny or moving and too tedious.  How anyone of reason can find comfort and insight through this obnoxious film with its dimwitted characters and general cluelessness is a mystery.
And to think, they’re making a sequel.  
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
1:04 p.m. 
Published in: on March 30, 2010 at 1:04 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. […] what you thought of He’s Just Not That Into You, a film I disliked intensely.  Last year, I wrote a review of it in this space and wondered why you got saddled with such an unappealing character to play.  Even your natural […]

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