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Home Blog Popcorn Parent Movie Reviews Movie Tuesday: He's Just Not That Into You (PG-13)

Movie Tuesday: He’s Just Not That Into You (PG-13)

A casual relationship of a movie.

You know, you go out, maybe get some Thai food, you have a good time, and he calls, but you can never get your schedules straight so nothing ever really happens.

Kristen Page-Kirby

He’s Just Not that Into You comes from a book that comes from one line of dialogue from “Sex in the City” (the TV show, not the movie) and is proof that all you really need is one stroke of very dumb luck to make a colossal amount of money.

The movie is smarter than the average romantic comedy, which isn’t saying much, because the average romantic comedy is very, very stupid. Now, I enjoy romantic comedies when they’re done well; the problem is they rarely are. HJNTIY (you don’t think I’m typing out the entire title every time, do you?) reaches for that meta-funny level that would set it apart, but, like a runner that starts out too fast, finishes at the middle of the pack.

The multi-faceted storyline (done better in Love Actually) follows a bunch of impossibly beautiful, all-white people of various ages in various romantic entanglements. The focus is on Gigi (the excellent Ginnifer Goodwin, doing what she can with a truly irritating character), your typical lovelorn twentysomething, full of irrepressible hope and an unfortunate tendency to leave awkward voicemails for the objects of her affections (done better in Swingers.) She goes out with Carter (Kevin Connoly), who’s in love with Anna, (Scarlett Johannson), who likes Ben (Bradley Cooper), who’s married to Janine (Jennifer Connelly, who surprises with solid comedic chops), who works with Beth (Jennifer Aniston), who’s in a long-term relationship with Neil (Ben Affleck.) Mary (Drew Barrymore) fits in there somewhere as a woman surrounded by gay men (she’s an ad rep for a gay weekly and, since they get the money that pays my bills, I always like to see ad reps on screen). Oh, and Justin Long plays Alex, a friend of Conor’s and the font of the “wisdom” of the movie, which is essentially: If a guy acts like he doesn’t like you, he doesn’t like you.

The movie’s brisk pace means it never gets bogged down, but it also means that the more interesting relationships lack development. The Janine-Ben-Anna relationship gets its due, but the tension between Beth and Neil—they’ve been together for seven years; she wants to get married, he doesn’t believe in marriage—is well-played by both Aniston and Affleck, and you want to see more of them. Same with Anna and Conor—apparently they dated, but she moved on and now keeps him around, using his affection for her to get, um, certain needs met. That onscreen dynamic usually has the guy doing the manipulation, so it’s interesting to see the roles reversed. In fact, there’s more good than bad in the film, but the good is … just good. The film takes place in Baltimore, so you can get some of that hometown thrill of seeing the familiar, as well as the extra laughs you get at the truly warped version of the Charm City housing market.

While the basis of the story has some promise (if a guy wants to marry you, he’ll marry you. If he wants to call you, he’ll call), at the end the script sells out when it comes to two of the relationships, granting improbable couplehood in time-honored RoCo tradition. But not everyone ends up happily ever after, and each unhappy person is unhappy in his or her own way.

Director Ken Kwapis does a pretty good job, aside from some parts where he gets all, “Behold! I can communicate meaning through moving images!” which … thanks, Orson. For example, after a fight over marriage between Beth and Neil, Affleck is left standing in front of a painting that says (seriously) “SHOULD SHOULD SHOULD SHOULD SHOULD.” That kind of insistence seems to only come up when Kwapis directs features (he directed The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, which, although good, had some of the same problem); on television he shows a remarkable amount of restraint, which makes his episodes of “The Office” (including “Booze Cruise” and “Casino Night”) almost stylistically recognizable, since he stands back and lets the script and characters do the work for him. Perhaps he recognized the weaknesses in this script and tried to help out.

Mild cursing—think the a-word and d-word—abounds, and there’s a few appearances of the s-word and its variations (-head, bull-, etc.) “Douche” is also tossed around a bit. There’s a steamy makeout scene, Scarlett Johansson takes a naked swim, and some sexy lingerie makes a few appearances, but all nudity is implied. And, forgive the crassness, but I just couldn’t find a way around writing that the phrase “dry hump” is mentioned.

In terms of lessons learned, it might be nice for teenage girls to come away with the “if he likes you, he should act like he likes you” rule and its implied corollary: “you deserve someone who likes you.” And the best part of the movie, for me, was seeing myself reflected in each of the women (I’m mostly the Scarlett Johannson character, with some time spent in Jennifer Aniston-land.) The women are, with the exception of Gigi, written with depth and feeling.

Also, if I might, some words of advice from me to all the teenage girls out there, inspired by one of the truest scenes in the film—being able to beat guys in video games makes them like you. No, really.

At a horribly misframed showing on Friday, Feb. 6, the previews were: I Love You Man, which has a guy-on-guy kiss between Paul Rudd and Thomas Lennon, and I’m pretty sure I speak for tens when I wanted to ask Thomas Lennon when “Viva Variety” will be available on DVD; The Ghosts of Girlfriends Past; All About Steve (people, we need to stop seeing stupid movies so that The Powers That Be will stop making them; Obsessed, in which Ali Larter appears briefly in her briefs; and the latest Harry Potter.

Kristen Page-Kirby is the editor of Chesapeake Family magazine. She has asked a guy out twice in her life: one said no, and one was the most boring date ever. She last reviewed New in Town.

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