Book vs. Movie: He's Just Not That Into You
By Russ Bickerstaff
February 16, 2009
He's just not that into you if he didn't bother to write the screenplay.
He's a writer. He wrote a book. He can write a screenplay.
Oh, Greg Behrendt's been really busy since the book came out, but that was a few years ago and if he doesn't have a little more time for the one thing he's written that been successful, then he's probably not that interested in what he's saying.
The "He's Very Busy" Excuse
The guy who wrote the book I'm based off of has had very little to do with me since that time. He didn't write my screenplay, but he's been really busy with his own projects. He took enough time out of his busy schedule to make a cameo appearance in me but I want more of a connection with him than that.
--He's Just Not That Into You - The Movie
Dear Jilted Film,
Behrendt does have other projects going on — because he's not that into you. The tone of the book is boring and repetitious for a reason. He seemed kind of reluctant to write it to begin with. Being a huge ensemble film with plenty of clever, witty actors and actresses filling out your scenes, you're far too good for him anyway. Let him do the rockabilly thing with his band and tour with his awful stand-up act. You're a lot better than him anyway.
It's So Simple
I'm not sure what the arrangement might have been between Behrendt and Tucillo with the film rights for the film, but the book has enough narrative spark to it that they could have written the script themselves if they had the desire to. And if the decision was out of their hands, they could have lobbied the producers to let them write the script and probably would have gotten to do so. Their names are so firmly attached to the title and a narrative film based off a self-help book has such a tenuous attachment to it to begin with that the film probably would have crashed if the authors hadn't been supportive. The picture that emerges is that they just didn't care about the film. If they cared about the book, they would have written the script.
Here's Why It's So Hard
Written by Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein, the script shows a considerable amount of promise. They also wrote Never Been Kissed, which may have had an overwhelming romantic comedy cheesiness to it, but there were some very fine moments in that film with very clever lines. Kohn and Silverstein's problem here is that they have to wrap a romantic comedy script around a self-help book that lacks any sense of the kind of subtlety that makes for decent romantic comedy. Here, the source material is actually something of a liability for the film.
This Is What It Looked Like
Kohn and Silverstein muddle through the process beautifully, capturing snatches of really bright comedy and doing it far more reliably than they managed with Never Been Kissed. The film's story consists of a group of characters in Baltimore who represent the various relationship dysfunctions mentioned in the book. The ensemble features a marriage-phobic Ben Affleck character in a relationship with a Jennifer Aniston character, a somewhat naïve Scarlett Johansson character having an affair with a married man who happens to be married to a Jennifer Connelly character. There are a lot of interesting interactions going on that would be better served by a film that wasn't also trying to keep with the branding of a best-selling self-help book.
While being a book that has, no doubt, helped quite a few women get out of negative relationships, He's Just Not That Into You is slow, poorly-written and repetitious. It does, however, serve its purpose quite well. On the other hand, it would serve as a poor basis for a film were it not for the fact that its gross simplifications of romantic relations weren't made infinitely more complex by a pair of competent script writers in a film populated by the kind of acting talent that can deliver sophisticated comedy and heartfelt emotion. Using a number of complex characters we only get to see briefly, Kohn and Silverstein's plot ends up living in all of those gray areas the book so staunchly avoids. The book may end up being far more known than the movie, but the movie is far more sophisticated than the book.