Judge Clark Douglas is just not that into you. Nah, just kidding. He wants you bad.
Our review of He's Just Not That Into You, published June 4th, 2009, is also available.
Are you the exception…or the rule?
"We are all programmed to believe that if a guy acts like a total jerk, that means he likes you."
Facts of the Case
So, here's the deal. He's Just Not That Into You offers a portrait of numerous attractive 20- to 40-somethings attempting to cope in the world of modern romance. The plot is a tangled web of interconnected complications, but I'll do my best to untangle them in a reasonably sensible and straightforward manner.
Anna (Scarlett Johansson, Match Point) is kind of in a relationship with Conor (Kevin Connolly, Entourage), but she is in the middle of lusting after a rather unavailable married man named Ben (Bradley Cooper, The Hangover). Anna is good friends with Mary (Drew Barrymore, Fever Pitch), who is in the middle of handling some advertising for Conor. Ben is married to Janine (Jennifer Connelly, A Beautiful Mind). Janine's co-workers and friends are Beth (Jennifer Aniston, Friends) and Gigi (Ginnifer Goodwin, Big Love). Beth is in a long-term relationship with Neil (Ben Affleck, State of Play), a man who claims he doesn't believe in marriage. This does not make Beth particularly happy. Gigi is desperate to find romance with any guy who will take her and has a bad habit of desperately chasing men after they dump her. One day, she receives a useful piece of advice from a bartender named Alex (Justin Long, Live Free or Die Hard): "If a guy acts like he doesn't give a !@ about you, then he genuinely doesn't give a !@ about you."
He's Just Not That Into You is based on a self-help book of the same title by Sex and the City scribes Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo. The line, "He's just not that into you," initially appeared in an episode of the popular HBO program, and it inspired Behrendt and Tuccillo to create a book informing women of (rather obvious) signs that a guy has no interest (I'm suddenly reminded of Tina Fey on 30 Rock authoritatively informing women, "That's a deal breaker!"). Now, self-help books don't naturally lend themselves to the world of cinema quite easily, but it has been done before (I suppose the best example is Woody Allen's, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask). So, the basic guiding principles of the book are illustrated via characters in the film. I haven't read the book, but if this movie is any indication of its contents, perhaps it should be titled, He's Just Not That Into You…Psych! Just Kidding, He Actually Totally Digs You.
A rather talented cast of attractive Hollywood folks has been assembled for this intricately interconnected ensemble film, but believe me, this business ain't Altman or even Love, Actually. The primary problem I have with He's Just Not That Into You is that it seems to be dishonest in terms of its intentions. It simultaneously wants to be a self-help film and a romantic crowd-pleaser, and it ultimately sacrifices the former in favor of embracing the latter. There are effective messages in the film about relationships. For instance, if you've been in a tight-knit relationship guy for seven years and he still insists that he never wants to get married, odds are that he's never going to marry you. Or, if there's a guy who frequently says insensitive and offensive things to you, odds are that his behavior indicates a lack of respect for you. But no, wait, what's that? These guys are actually noble men with hearts of gold that just couldn't find a way to express their true feelings? Oh. Well, then. I guess you should just keep tolerating that sort of behavior and just wait for the guys to change.
Another problem is that these characters just aren't particularly interesting. The guys are mostly indecisive whiners, and the women are mostly rather uninteresting as individuals. These women seem to have no interest whatsoever in anything other than guys, dating and romance. They're needy and desperate, particularly Ginnifer Goodwin's character. Her entire life seems to revolve around whatever relationship she may or may not be in. Why don't these women seem to have any other passions or concerns? The guys are permitted to have lives, hobbies, and other interests. The women allow their lives to revolve around the men, and only one manages to avoid to find any sort of personal freedom by the film's conclusion. Goodwin is adorable in a cute puppy dog sort of way, but would one really want to be in a long-term relationship with someone who allowed your feelings toward them to be the only noteworthy aspect of their life?
He's Just Not That Into You is a fairly simple film from a visual perspective, but it receives a rather satisfying transfer that nicely accentuates the bright color palette. The level of detail is fairly impressive, despite a few moments that seem just a tad too soft. Background detail in particular excels during a handful of outdoor scenes (just look at the wedding sequence about 77 minutes into the film). Very, very faint grain adds a natural film quality to the picture that seems curiously lacking in many romantic comedies. Black crush is a bit of an issue at times, but not in a particularly significant way. This particular genre has never been particularly ambitious in the audio department, and that's the case once again here. The track is clean and clear, well-distributed and about as good as something this light and dialogue-heavy can be. Cliff Eidelman's sickly-sweet score blends quite nicely with the dialogue and minimal sound design.
The supplements are actually rather light. First up is an assortment of deleted scenes with optional director's commentary. These are worth a quick look, but not terribly interesting. 19 minutes of extended character vignettes offer some casual interaction between the stars of the film (in character, natch), "Six Words That Make Up the Film" (11 minutes) is a standard making-of featurette, and "Duet for Telephones" (4 minutes) offers a quick discussion of chemistry. Additionally, the disc is equipped with BD-Live and you get a digital copy.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
There was one character that I cared about deeply throughout the entire film. That would be the married woman played by Jennifer Connelly. First of all, Connelly is an actress of considerable depth that avoids managing to become a stock romantic comedy character even in lightweight fluff like this. Second, her attempts to save her broken relationship are a little easier to empathize with. She isn't dealing with a jerk boyfriend, she's dealing with an irresponsible husband that she has been reasonably happily married to for quite some time. You don't just throw something like that out at the slightest sign of trouble. She has moments here that I found refreshing. When she discovers that her husband has been cheating on her, he says he'll pack his bags and go, and she asks him why he doesn't want to stay to try and work it out with her. When she comes to her final decision about the relationship, the reasoning behind her decision is a decision made by a woman who understands what is truly important in life.
Though far from reaching the banal blandness of most modern romantic comedies, He's Just Not That Into You is ultimately a dishonest disappointment. The Blu-ray release provides us with stellar picture, but that's not enough to save a weak film.
Um, like, guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: New Line
• Deleted Scenes
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