He's Just Not That Into You
Directed by Ken Kwapis. Starring Jennifer Aniston, Drew Barrymore, Ben Affleck, Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Connelly, Scarlett Johansson, Justin Long, Bradley Cooper, Kevin Connolly. (2009, PG-13, 129 min.)
REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., Feb. 13, 2009
Love may be a losing game, but it's also – at least according to this “ripped from the pages of the self-help book!” romantic comedy – a using game, with both sexes wheedling and working the other for insider info, an extramarital romp, or an engagement ring. Adapted by Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein from the bestselling book of the same name, He’s Just Not That Into You charts a loose constellation of Baltimore residents as they date, marry, break up, and make up. (Remember The Wire's ethnically diverse, rough-and-tumble take on the town? Welcome to the Bizarro Baltimore, populated by the White and Whining.) Beth (Aniston) and Neil (Affleck) seem to have an idyllic setup, save for the fact that Neil, a staunch anti-marriagist, refuses to propose to Beth; meanwhile the marriage of their best friends, Ben (Cooper) and Janine (Connelly), is buckling under that time-honored relationship killer, the home renovation. Their real estate agent, Conor (Connolly), worships Anna (Johansson), a free-spirit wannabe singer, but she only has eyes for married Ben (the sum of their blindingly blond coupling is the fluffy good looks and mental acuity of two golden retrievers humping). And then there's sweet, underappreciated Gigi (Big Love's Goodwin), who approaches the dating game as if it were professional sport: She may be batting .000, but bless her if she doesn't believe every time she swings she's gonna hit a homer. She makes friends with Alex (Long), a restaurateur who pities her enough to let her in on some of the secrets of the male clan. I don't use the word "pity" lightly, but there's no way around it: Again and again, the film offers up Gigi as the sacrificial lamb of single ladydom, there for the audience to mock, scorn, and look away from in embarrassment. It's a curious slant to take, considering the film's pedigree – Barrymore's femme-centric Flower Films (Charlie's Angels) produced, and Kwapis previously directed the plucky tweener Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. There's some funny stuff here that doesn't involve degrading its female protagonists, and the cast, by and large, is appealing (especially the nicely dry Aniston and Goodwin, who has the eyes of a mischief-maker). But for every genuine moment of relationship insight the script proffers (and there are a few nuggets of gold), there are another five wincing examples of female delusion and hysteria. And how come none of these women appears to have anything to talk about other than how to get a man? These are funny, smart, good-looking gals. Forget getting the man; work on getting a life.