A film review by Craig J. Koban
HE'S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU
2009, PG-13, 129 mins.
2009, PG-13, 129 mins.
Neil: Ben Affleck / Beth: Jennifer Aniston / Mary: Drew
Barrymore / Anna: Scarlett Johansson / Janine: Jennifer
Connelly / Gigi: Ginnifer Goodwin / Ben: Bradley Cooper /
Conor: Kevin Connolly / Alex: Justin Long
Are women truly as obsessively stupid and blindly naïve as they are all portrayed in the new rom-com HE’S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU?
Call me crazy and cynical, but this new film is a complete moral step backwards for females in general. It represents a film altogether new to me: the chick flick that masquerades as a woman empowered self-help seminar about the difficulties of human relationships, but it shockingly manages to condescend the intelligence and independence of the gender as a whole.
I checked, it's 2009, so you'd think movies would be more liberal
minded, but if more like this come out that
continue to treat women like grade-A morons and bumbling and ill-sighted
buffoons, then I kind of worry. What’s
even more unnerving about this whole enterprise is that (a) we have a crew
of talented and likeable actresses slumming their way thought this dribble
and (b) audience member will have to suffer through this tale of five women trying
to navigate themselves through all of the b.s. men put them through...for
the inexcusably long running time of 129 minutes.
This is not a film that is just passively watched and forgotten
about; this is one that – like a really bad blind date – I endured and
Oh…and I “loved” the fact that this
comedy is based on – for cripe’s sake – a self-help/improvement book
of the same name written by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo, which was
published in 2004. Even more
shocking was the notion that it went on the New York Times’ bestseller
lost and – gasp! – was also featured on Oprah.
A cursory glance at the book’s Wikipedia page educated me that
the book was inspired by an episode of SEX AND THE CITY called
“Pick-A-Little, Talk-A-Little” to which one of the characters told
another (after a botched date), “He’s just not that into you.
When a guy’s really into you, he’s coming upstairs….”
Gee, thanks a pantload for the startling
insights. If I really want a
girl badly enough, I will go up to her apartment and make out with her.
Thanks. Got it.
Women, apparently, don't.
At least as far as this film takes ridiculous pains to point out. If anything, most of the women portrayed in HJNTIY (sorry for the acronym, but it’s a long title to keep typing out) are so annoyingly clueless that you just want to slap some good, cold, hard common sense into them. Am I that harsh? Consider one opening line in the film, provided by one of the main characters in voice over form: “We have all been programmed to believe that if a guy acts like a jerk that means he likes you.” Huh? You don’t say! Later in the film, one of the most sensible and level headed male characters tells this same woman, much to her shock and apprehension, “If a guy treats you like he does not give a shit, it’s because he does not give a shit.”
think I was the only one in the packed theatre that jumped out of his
seat, threw my hands in the air, and screamed, “For the love of God,
that's bloody common sense!!!”
The theatre that I saw HJNTIY was packed
with women, mostly with their husbands/boyfriends that seemed to
incessantly squirm in their chairs throughout; I was among them.
Regrettably, the really sad sight of the film was seeing most –
if not all – of the female audience members laughing through every
infantile, moronic, manufactured, and utterly insulting aspect of this
date film. I always thought
that the modern woman was a intelligent soul with a resoundingly good head on
their shoulders that have wits, poise, and confidence.
Despite its trailers and ads (which strike such a largely
fraudulent tone), this film is so abysmally anti-girl power that how any
smart and sharp witted female could possible find the “insights” of
this film enlightening or entertaining kind of mystifies me.
If this film’s assertion about women is true, then I think I have
officially become a confirmed bachelor.
For a film that stridently attempts to be
a real zeitgeist romantic comedy that thinks it’s intelligently of our
times, I found HJNTIY lethargically backwards minded.
Not only that, but it’s just as lame-brained, predictable, and
routinely plotted and constructed as any bad rom-com I’ve seen lately. Certainly, the film is ambitious in approach as it tries to
tell four sets of stories about a series of men and women dealing with
issues of love and relationships, but the resulting effort is plodding,
dull, and too mechanical for its own good.
That, and the women – as stated – are resentfully silly and
bubble-headed throughout. You
kind of are left wonder how any of these people actually made it to mature
The film’s romantic misadventures take
place in Baltimore and revolve around naive people in their twenties and
thirties (many of them mentally in their early teens).
If there were one commonality about all of the relationships
depicted then it would be that one is more devoted to the other whereas
the other has deep doubts and/or regrets.
The poorest sap of the bunch would certainly have to be Gigi
(played by the wonderfully wide eyed and incessantly adorable Ginnifer
Goodwin, so good on TV’s BIG LOVE, but almost teeth-gratingly annoying
here) as a young woman that is so mentally damaged that she fails to
comprehend all of the clear-cut signs that the men she dates are not
interested in a relationship with her.
After an initial failed date in the film’s opening with a real
estate agent named Connor (ENTOURAGE’S Kevin Connolly), she begins a
tortuous spiritual journey of reading way, way too much in-between the
lines of the smallest comments from her future dates.
One thing is abundantly clear about this woman very early on: she
does not need dating advice as much as she does a straight jacket.
Eventually, she does meet a nice and brutally honesty bartender named Alex (Justin Long) who sort of befriends her by attempting to shed vast insights into the male psyche (i.e. – if a man wants to get into your pants, don’t worry, he’ll make every attempt possible). She takes his advice very seriously, so seriously that she calls him up – even in the middle of a date – for advice about every word uttered by a potential suitor. How Alex does not tell this woman to seek much needed help is really beyond me. Nonetheless, the pair do become friends, but, wouldn’t you know it, through a series of archaic and stale plot developments, she thinks that he’s sending her signals.
Care to take a guess what happens?
Then we have another story involving one
of Gigi’s co-workers, Beth (Jennifer Aniston), who has been living with
her boyfriend, Neil (Ben Affleck, given top billing, but oddly in a horribly underwritten part) for
seven years, but they are not married.
For years they have been fine, but when she finally gives him the
obligatory marriage ultimatum, he refuses (he despises marriage…gotta
give him points for honesty) and she kicks him out.
Then we have Gigi’s best friend Janine (Jennifer Connelly, given
the best performance of the bunch in a part kind of beneath her standards)
who is married to Ben (Bradley Cooper), who both live an affluent and well
off marriage…but the heat is gone.
With little spark left, Ben feels increasingly tempted by the sexy
and very available Anna (Scarlett Johansson), a yoga instructor and wanna-be
singer that he meets at a grocery store.
Anna, despite knowing that Ben is married, does make a serious play
for him, even though she is kind of with Connor…but not really.
The fourth and final story thread is the least developed and, as
a result, feels tacked on and it involves Mary (Drew Barrymore, looking kind
of withered and tired) as a young ad executive that is feebly trying to
find her true love via the internet, chat rooms, dating sites, and
technology that does not involve face to face contact.
Even though her role and subplot could have been excised
altogether, she does have the most memorable monologue in the entire film,
where she reveals how living in a modern tech-heavy age is exhausting when
it comes to…well…meeting people in general.
Okay…here’s what I don’t understand: If this is a female-centric chick flick, then why are men kind of seen as the real victims of the women and their irritating insecurities? Beat’s me. If anything, most of the men – even though a few make some truly bad choices – come off as the best adjusted. Affleck’s character, being totally phobic of marriage…and honest about it...is royally booted out of his shared home with Anniston’s character for…being honest, despite his undying devotion to her. Bradley Cooper’s Ben, even though he does (S-P-O-I-L-E-R A-L-E-R-T) cheat on Connolly’s deeply suspicious wife, is honest because he admits it to her, but he’s the only lecherous jerk (funny, but adultery is a two way street, and the film kind of absolves Johansson's character from blame a bit too much). Perhaps even more incredibly false is a would-be moving scene where Ginnifer Goodwin lashes out at Justin Long…even after she has made a complete fool of herself by misreading all of his false signs of interest. Long, at one point, rationally tells her that she is just…like…so wrong in her overall approach, to which the script gives her the final say by letting her lash back, “I may dissect each little thing and put myself out there so much but at least that means that I still care…. I may do a lot of stupid shit but I'm still a lot closer to love than you are.”
Uh…actually…she’s so delusion at this point that the only
thing she’s close to is a shrink’s office (this is made all the more
insane by the manner the film reunites the pair in one of the most
trivially hopeful, romantic, and feel-good endings in a long time).
I hope I am getting my point across and, just to remind you, that the women here are mindless, zombified pawns. Just think about it: Gigi is a mouth-salivating, sex-starved, and frankly insane woman; Anna may seem like a harmless victim, but she willfully flirts and teases Connor into bed with her, even though she knows he’s married; Janine becomes a paranoid, frothing at the mouth bitch when she confronts Ben with largely circumstantial evidence about his (get this) taking up smoking again (kind of minor in comparison to his cheating on her); and Beth is kind of unhealthily fixated with getting married, even though her totally faithful beau tells her that he does not need a piece of paper and a pair of rings for their love to be complete…but this still makes her go bonkers. Oy vey. Instead of seeing great actresses play real flesh and blood characters, they are instead reduced to playing broad, cartoonish caricatures.
You know…I myself have not been perfect on the relationship front: I have made my share of embarrassing mistakes and choices. Being the same relative age of most of the characters in HJNTIY, I thought that the film would have a level of empathetic insight into the trials and tribulations of twenty and thirty-something dating habits. Sadly, this films offers up a lot of clap-trap and woefully rudimentary plot developments that go beyond contrived and, with its unendurable running time, the film is too neurotic minded, too overstuffed with cheap fortune cookie rhetoric, and too hopelessly dense for its own good. It’s a classic example of a film that thinks it’s a lot smarter than it actually is, and, even worse, it overstays its welcome by about the 30 minute mark (not to mention that it’s longwinded attempts at manufacturing multiple happy endings to all plot threads is so insultingly shallow). Perhaps the inevitable nail in this film’s coffin is that I simply could not believe that its parade of gorgeous, accomplished, and smart actresses would lower themselves to play characters that seem like unintelligible puppets to the smarter men around them. Maybe I too am hopelessly naïve, but hot and unattainable women rarely seem this desperate in real life.
And speaking of desperate...129 minutes!? With that amount of time waiting passing before leaving the theatre, you'll find it hard to be into this film.