Movie Review: He's Just Not That Into You
By Matthew Huntley
February 13, 2009

Why doesn't Brad bathe more? I have no idea.

Just before my girlfriend and I saw He's Just Not That Into You, we discussed how women, probably by nature, are prone to drama. They seem drawn to crises, perhaps on a subconscious level. I know I'm making a gross generalization here, but in my experience, women sometimes make things overly complicated, which isn't to say men don't, but it seems more common for females. Maybe women think applying drama to a situation will make it more interesting and exciting. They're probably right.

Coincidentally, a scene takes place in He's Just Not That Into You where a guy tells a girl that women overreact, pace nervously back and forth, and get upset over trivial things (like waiting until the last minute to pay a phone bill) because they like the drama that comes with it. I don't consider myself an expert on women, far from it, but given that my girlfriend and I already had this same conversation before the movie, I felt like I already knew what this guy was talking about. Hearing it onscreen didn't necessarily offer further insight.

That is sort of my problem with He's Just Not That Into You - it's a comedy-drama that doesn't really offer any piercing knowledge about relationships that most people haven't already gathered from personal experience. It reiterates a lot of what we already know, and I guess it's comforting to think we're not alone in our thoughts, but I wish the screenplay by Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein, based on the self-help book by Greg Berhendt and Liz Tuccillo, worked beyond its simplistic, "relationships 101" theories and became a tighter, more personal story for its characters.

Speaking of characters, there are a lot of them - perhaps too many. To start the movie off, Conor (Kevin Connolly) has just gone out on a date with Gigi (Ginnifer Goodwin). Immediately after, he calls his former flame, Anna (Scarlett Johansson), and asks for a nightcap. He tells his friend Alex (Justin Long) the date went okay - "You know, whatever" - while Gigi giddily calls her best friend Janine (Jennifer Connelly) and tells her she thinks Conor really likes her.

Anna, who was in the grocery store when Conor called, meet-cutes Ben (Bradley Cooper), who's married to Janine (Gigi's best friend, remember?). Ben tells his friend Neil (Ben Affleck) it's okay for him to make friends with a hot girl like Anna, while Anna tells her friend Mary (Drew Barrymore) she's crazy about this new guy with the "killer smile" and a butt that makes her want to...never mind. Neil lives with Beth (Jennifer Aniston), his girlfriend of seven years, but he doesn't believe in marriage. Beth, who works with Gigi and Janine, feels left out of the marriage circle now that her little sister is tying the knot.

[Catching breath] Okay, now that you know who the characters are, I can tell you director Ken Kwapis does a fair job of balancing the multiple conflicts so that each one finds screen time and resolution. He does a fair job, yes, but I think the screenplay should have dropped the Conor and Mary characters since their stories seem less important and fluffier in the grand scheme of things. Mary only seems to spout out epigrams about modern pop culture while Conor doesn't do much after serving as the catalyst for Gigi's story. After that, it's like the writers ran out of meaningful (or funny) things for him to do. Conor is a real estate agent and I wasn't amused by his subplot to try and corner the gay community.

The movie talks about dating and relationships a lot, but it doesn't go beyond the basics. Alex is the quintessential realist and provides Gigi the lowdown on why Conor is never going to call her back. He tells her, bluntly, "he's just not that into you." Gigi quickly learns the signs of when a man does like her and turns the tables on Alex, who believes he's got it all figured out.

The most interesting plot threads in the movie exist between Janine, Ben and Anna, and Neil and Beth. These characters are dealt the most interesting problems, and give us the most to think about, especially on the subjects of loyalty and commitment. I wish the whole movie had been about them since they provide us the best chance to ponder something new.

Still, with that said, I did enjoy watching He's Just Not That Into You. It's smart and practical with its observations, despite not being original or very deep. It also contains some strong performances, especially from the two Jennifers. Ms. Connelly shares a scene with Bradley Cooper in Home Depot that's very well-acted. Notice the way she looks at him just before walking away and pushing her cart. It's heartbreaking and her eyes connote a sense of fear and loss. Ben, though a sleaze he may be, is put in a difficult position - does he go against his feelings for Anna (who could be the real love of his life) or remain loyal to his wife? The movie doesn't necessarily see his struggle as black or white and allows us to empathize with him.

As for Jennifer Aniston, I'm consistently impressed by the way she goes against her glitzy Hollywood image and chooses roles that make her appear organic and down-to-earth. She's not only a good actress but also one of the most likable and unafraid to be humiliated. The next step is for her to play a role completely against type. I believe she has the range.

For a romantic comedy, which fails to surprise us most of the time anyway, He's Just Not That Into You is a good conversation starter and gives viewers a chance to gather around and discuss who in the movie is right and what they think the characters should have done. But I doubt anyone will look at these characters and see them as fully developed people to whom they can make a serious connection. There's just not enough screen time to go around, and their dialogue isn't all that fresh or penetrating. I recommend the movie for its good-looking cast and ultimately hopeful outlook, but on the subject of relationships, this is a movie that should have said more.