It’s not uncommon for movies to be based on novels, or great events in history, but a movie based on a self-help book?! It’s been done more than once, but it always seems a little weird. Even when the book is as successful and overly-accessible as Greg Behrendt and Liz Tucillo’s He’s Just Not That Into You. But the deed was done in 2009, five years after the book was published. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I am nothing if not curious, so we’re going to dive right in.
Our confusion about relationships starts young. A little first-grade girl making a sand castle is heartbroken when the boy she likes says she’s dog poop. Her mom tells her that it means the boy likes her. This mindset of bad–is-good has spread all over the world, with everyone trying to rationalize why that potential significant someone hasn’t made contact, when the answer is more than obvious. Here’s where the movie begins to dish out its own brand of wisdom, and I use that term loosely.
Our guides on the thorny road to love are Gigi (Ginnifer Goodwin), Conor (Kevin Connolly), his girlfriend, Anna (Scarlett Johanssen), and Ben (Bradley Cooper), a record producer married to Janine (Jennifer Connelly). Anna has a friend named Mary (Drew Barrymore) who works for the Baltimore Blade. Meanwhile, Beth (Jennifer Aniston) and Neil (Ben Affleck) are live-ins. So, just about every possible relationship scenario is represented, and every one is fraught with peril.
Gigi is rather desperate. She’s hoping Conor will call her, and when he doesn’t, makes up all kinds of scenarios as to why he hasn’t. Then she goes to the local bar, hoping to see him, and ends up talking to Alex (Kevin Long), the sympathetic bar manager. who gives her a bit of advice: If a guy doesn’t call right away, he’s not interested. He might have a good reason why he hasn’t called, but that’s the exception, not the rule.
Gigi starts seeing Alex as her personal dating guru. She meets a charming lawyer, Jared, and when she can’t figure out who’s supposed to call who, asks Alex. Alex is blunt: “He’s not interested.”
When Alex invites Gigi to a party at his apartment, she thinks he’s got a thing for her. Does he? Well, Gigi’s track record is so flawless up to this point, but who knows?
Gigi’s friend, Janine wants to have a baby, but Ben keeps putting her off. He met Anna in a checkout line at the grocery store, and they start having an affair. He tries to excuse it as being totally innocent, though, because he’s a record producer and Anna wants to be a singer. He’s only helping her along. What really drives Janine over the edge, though, is when she discovers Ben lied to her about his smoking habit. Even when someone has reached the supposed relationship pinnacle of getting married, it doesn’t necessarily signal arrival. Problems and confusion still abound.
Anna has her own guy on the side, Conor, who thinks she’s into him, when she’s only there for the footrubs and Conor’s sympathetic ear. Conor is just as bad as Gigi in that he tries to justify why Anna doesn’t call him back right away. He’s also too busy dreaming of he and Anna billing and cooing in a perfect brownstone to realize she doesn’t care.
Neil thinks he’s saving himself a lot of trouble by just living with Beth, his girlfriend of seven years. He doesn’t believe in marriage, and she does. Beth breaks up with Neil and doesn’t look back, or at least she tries not to. At her sister Amber’s wedding, where she’s stuck walking Amber’s dog down the aisle, Beth tries to ignore all the happy faces. She’s equally uncomfortable at the reception, where her cousin makes near-passes at her. It all goes by the wayside, though, when her dad has a heart attack and she’s the only one of her sisters and brothers-in-law to lift a finger to take care of him.
Then there’s Mary, who seems to be a fount of relationship advice, but can’t get a guy to call her back. She’s so stuck at this stage that it seems like progress if a man friends her on MySpace. The one guy who does call her back is an aspiring musician who starts his message by singing her name. Mary and her Blade buddies are breathless until the next message comes on, and it’s the same guy leaving the same message, only for another girl. Ouch. The one other guy in Mary’s life is Conor, who’s a realtor buying advertising space in the Blade. They’ve never met, but they like to talk about which page Conor’s ad is going on. Things are friendly, except Conor’s hung up on Anna.
The characters do move on, or at least resolve their situations, but it takes some longer to get a clue than others.
When it comes to my own relationships, I had to learn the meaning of what George asks Julianne in My Best Friend’s Wedding: “Who’s chasing you?” I’m no expert, but that one question saved me a lot of frustration. If a relationship is supposed to happen, it will happen, and trying to force the process always ends badly. Not that effort is needless, but it has to fit.
He’s Just Not That Into You gets to that point eventually, but it hasn’t earned it; the characters have merely put in their time. Apparently the film was supposed to be based on Sex and the City, except it looks more like a cheap version of Singles. Only Singles is a half-hour shorter and commits itself to the characters. He’s Just Not That Into You doesn’t seem to give two fleas.
The movie stumbles on so many levels. It tries to be smart, but spreads itself so thin that it can’t really be anywhere. It’s chasing or making out with a different person every night and doesn’t know any of them. It’s also too absorbed in its own cuteness to realize it’s trying too hard. Instead of taking a break and re-evaluating things, it just falls flatter.
The crowning moment is at the wedding, when He’s Just Not That Into You author, Greg Behrendt does a cameo as the minister. I wish I were joking about how painful and lame it is. Behrendt looks bored until he realizes the camera is on him, and then he pastes on a wooden smirk. It’s as if someone was off-camera telling him, “Dude, you’re being filmed.” Ugh. Come on, people.
Our girl, Drew did an okay job with what she was given to work with, which, again, isn’t much–she was just a notch above a bit player here. If she had been onscreen for more than fifteen minutes, she would have probably been the film’s standout, because she was the only one who seemed somewhat awake. Drew had to be awake, though–she was one of the producers.
So what did I think overall? Errrrr…I’m not going to make this pun.
I’m really not going to make this pun.
D’oh, I can’t help it. I just wasn’t that into He’s Just Not That Into You. It could have been worse, I guess, but it takes too long to get where it goes, and the journey just isn’t that much fun. Relationships can be confusing, but they shouldn’t be this tedious.
For more Barrymore greatness (probably better than this movie), please visit Crystal at In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood. Thanks for hosting, Crystal! Thanks for reading, and see you soon for our next Atomic Age Friday…