Going to see an American romantic comedy is like going out on a first date—you spruce up, head out, spend a little money, and try to have a good time. After fifteen minutes, you’ve usually made up your mind. It’s pleasant enough, but by the time you get home, you’ve forgotten most of what happened. Sometimes, you get your hopes up only to get let down.
But once in a while, just once in a while, what seemed like another ordinary evening turns into a night that leaves you smiling.
And so it is with He’s Just Not That Into You, a by-the-numbers chick-flick that becomes more than the sum of its ensemble parts. It’s about the modern yet timeless tensions and trials of love—sex, mindgames and stupid mistakes in the age of MySpace and voicemail.
The film features everyone from the cover of People magazine—Jennifer Aniston, Drew Barrymore, Scarlett Johansson, Jennifer Connelly, Ben Affleck and others—in a web of relationships worthy of its inside pages. Director Ken Kwapis keeps us perfectly oriented even as his imperfect protagonists become physically and emotionally entangled.
Janine and Ben (Connelly and Bradley Cooper) are married, but unhappy. Beth and Neil (Aniston and Affleck) are happy, but unmarried, and therefore unhappy. Gigi (Ginnifer Goodwin) is single, but lonely, and therefore unhappy. Alex (Justin Long) is single, but happy, until he meets Gigi, and… you get the idea. Loving someone, and having them love you back, is a lot of hard work.
Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein rose to their equally difficult job adapting He’s Just Not That Into You from Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo’s self-help book of the same name. The title is one of several chapters (e.g., “if he’s sleeping with someone else”) used in the film, introduced with woman-on-the-street interview segments and tying into various character arcs. The writing is snappy without being self-conscious.
Jennifers Aniston and Connelly stand out amongst uneven cast performances. Connelly has a chance to demonstrate her comic timing, and Aniston is right at home, playing yet another version of the fashion-conscious girl-next-door she honed as Rachel Greene in her hit American sitcom, Friends.
Every film reflects the politics of its day, and the fun in He’s Just Not That Into You is tempered by its re-mythologizing of the inevitability of monogamous, heterosexual union.
It is disappointing, if sadly expected, to see homosexual relationships, and indeed homosexuality in general, used for comic relief in the film. Drew Barrymore’s character is the only woman in an office staffed with uniformly effeminate, flashy gay men, inexplicably more concerned with her love life than their own.
Across the film, homosexual subcultures are reduced to their more tired stereotypes—the tight shirts, affected gestures and supportive ear. This is especially unhelpful in a country like Jamaica, where same-sex intimacy is still illegitimised.
Despite its bothersome bias, He’s Just Not That Into You is the best kind of first date—when it’s over, you want to do it all again tomorrow.
He’s Just Not That Into You
Directed by Ken Kwapis.
With Ben Affleck, Jennifer Aniston, Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Connolly, Scarlett Johansson.
129 minutes. Romance/Comedy.