Monday, June 08, 2009

He's Just Not That Into You...

He's Just Not That Into You was a groundbreaking self-help guide published in 2004.

The book, written by Sex in the City writers Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo, claimed to be the 'No Excuses Truth to Understanding Guys' - and its pragmatic disassembly of the dating mythos made it a New York Times bestseller.

The book's popularity and pop-culture credentials naturally turned a few heads in Hollywood - but I don't think anybody anticipated what happened next; some clever bod writing a romantic comedy based around the book's 'message.'

The result is He's Just Not That Into You, a bright and breezy comedy in the mold of Love Actually. It stars all of Hollywood's favorite leading love interests; Ben Affleck, Jennifer Aniston, Drew Barrymore, Scarlett Johansson, Justin Long, Jennifer Connelly, Ginnifer Goodwin, Kevin Connolly and Bradley Cooper.

The premise of the film is tried and tested - a cast of characters whose romantic entanglements messily intermingle. The 'star' of the movie is Ginnifer Goodwin - who embodies the 'He's Just Not That Into You' premise by playing a needy, insecure woman who spends her entire time obsessing over why her phone isn't ringing.

It's only when she runs into laid-back bartender Justin Long that she finally learns how to interpret a guy's signals and recognize when they're simply 'not into her.'

Ginnifer's social circle provides the rest of the cast of characters - like long-term committed couple Affleck and Aniston. Jennifer Aniston's character is getting increasingly antsy as her sisters go off and get married - since her long-term boyfriend refuses to pop the question. When she makes an ultimatum, it puts their whole relationship in jeopardy.

Affleck's best friend is played by Bradley Cooper. He's a happily married man, who runs into temptation when he befriends dazzling beauty Scarlett Johansson. His frustration with his marriage (to domineering, obsessive-compulsive Jennifer Connelly) doesn't help him resist his urges.

Meanwhile, Scarlett Johansson is simultaneously being wooed by sweet, but misguided Kevin Connelly, who is a dutiful friend and occasional lover - but just can't seem to cross from the 'friend' zone into a romantic relationship. Meanwhile, he's conducting a business relationship with aspirationally amorous Drew Barrowmore - who can't seem to conduct a love affair unless it's through MySpace or Facebook.

But don't worry! As is expected, most of these complicated love triangles resolve themselves with predictable results - and therein lies the problem with the entire movie.

Despite having stolen the title from the self-help book - and paid lip-service to it in the script - the ultimate resolution of each love triangle totally contradicts the original message Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo were trying to make.

Ginnifer Goodwin learns how to recognize when a guy's 'just not that into you' - or, at least, she does right up until the predictable moment when Justin Long realizes he loves her.

Similarly, Affleck and Anniston's problems aren't solved by understanding, respect or communication - but by a big, shiny engagement ring.

It gets worse; Jennifer Connelly finally divorces Bradley Cooper not because he confessed his affair with Scarlett Johansson, but because he lied about smoking in the house.

The movie basically paints each and every female character as needy, insecure, obsessive and delusional - and in complete contrast to the book, actually rewards them for acting this way. It's pure Hollywood pap from beginning to end.

What makes that so frustrating is how the opening lines of the movie itself, taken verbatim from the book, establish that parents, romantic books and Hollywood movies reinforce unrealistic expectations on young women. Then they go and do exactly the same thing.

The ultimate result is a clever, entertaining romantic comedy that could have been so much more. For a night on the sofa, it makes perfect popcorn fodder. Just don't expect to learn any life lessons from it - instead, pick up a copy of the (much better) original book.

1 comment:

Lilly said...

I just watched this today, while I played hooky from work.
And I stupidly sat there and picked out little things and said "hey.....He does. hmmm. He kinda does that, too. oh crap" of a guy I've been 'with' for a year.

goddamn movie.

I haven't read the book because I now have a rule - I either see the movie first, or I wait so long in between the book and the movie that I've forgotten all but the basic plot turns. Because if not....well, I'm hell to be watching that movie with. I criticize at every scene getting more and more frustrated with the liberties in adaptation that were taken.