I had no idea that He’s Just Not That Into You was based on a book, much less a self-help book. This fact helps explain the slightly disjointed feel of the movie, and the way everything fits together just so. Before I get too far down this rabbit hole, I must admit to liking the movie. Yes, I enjoyed a film that falls under the banner of romantic comedy. No, there is nothing wrong with that, and I will not apologize for enjoying something the stereotypes say I shouldn’t. Still, the movie does play out a little like Dating for Dummies. It is the sort of movie that is only a movie due to its length, if you tried to stage a movie on any one or two of its component parts and you would end up with a pretty short film.
By all rights, I don’t think I should like the movie. There is something rather pedestrian about the film. The screenplay goes around in circles as it spouts supposed truisms about relationships that amount to little more than common sense that the female characters of the piece dutifully charge out to test on prospective mates, or on their current beaus as the case may be. In any case it is a movie that succeeds not on the strength of its screenplay, but on the performances of its cast and its ability to piece together compelling stories that link together like a jigsaw puzzle.
One story follows Gigi (Ginnifer Goodwinn), a naive but good-hearted single woman, and her quest to find a man interested in her. This leads her to Alex (Justin Long), a bartender gifted with the ability to observe and interpret the behavior of men, knowledge that he delivers in bite-sized attitude last sound bites while he also sizes up her potential. This is the story I enjoyed the most, likely do to the infectious enthusiasm that Goodwinn brings to the screen combined with Justin Long being a funny guy.
Next up is the story of Janine (Jennifer Connelly) and her husband Ben (Bradley Cooper). She is a rather high strung woman who does not recognize the strain her actions are putting on her marriage, although when she is at work, she seems to be a different woman. Anyway, her coldness is pushing Ben towards closer to the brink of cheating when he becomes enamored with Anna (Scarlett Johansson).
Meanwhile, Anna has similar feelings for Ben without the shackles of marriage to hold her down. Her problem is that her desire for commitment leads her towards the unavailable and away from Conor (Kevin Connolly), the guy who would drop everything and marry her in a heartbeat.
Then there is Beth (Jennifer Aniston) and Neil (Ben Affleck). Beth has been in a long term, loving relationship, but she longs for more. Beth wants the ring that usually comes with such lasting love, but the problem is that Neil does not believe in marriage. Who is right? Who is to say, but it does drive a wedge into their relationship.
Finally, there is Mary (Drew Barrymore), a woman unlucky in love and struggling to find a man while contending with the combative nature of technology and the way it interferes with actual, genuine human to human interaction. The addition of technology as a romantic tool has certainly muddied the waters, hasn’t it?
Each of these stories is weaved into the romantic tapestry of the film, allowing it to build a strength and momentum through the blending of tales. If nothing else, director Ken Kwapis does a good job of spreading out screen time among the stories. Not once did I feel that the weight was leaning too heavily to one side, and I was never allowed to forget any of the characters. It is a careful balancing act.
Bottomline. The film is a bit talky at times and the relationships may be over-simplified, but they do succeed in broad strokes. What makes it work as well as it does is the large cast and their ability to command your attention. Is it worth checking out? Sure. The film is a little silly, but it is fun.