Saturday, June 20, 2009

He's Just Not That Into You, or "Don't Expect Me To Ever Call You Again After This Movie."

Right now, the movie adaptation of He’s Just Not That Into You, the best-selling self-help book based on relationships, has reached the second-place spot in box offices across America, and is being touted on TV as “the perfect date movie”. But I ask you, what sort of guy would take a girl to see a movie that will blow the cover wide open when later that night, he tells her he’ll call her soon, and never does? Taking a date to see this movie is kind of like ripping a band-aid off quickly so that it doesn’t hurt; I would feel as if my date was trying to prove the point that he doesn’t really like me all that much and was trying to head me off at the pass so he could avoid the calls I would leave on his answering machine for a week afterward. Which is why I went to see it with four of my favorite single girl friends.

From the beginning, it should be noted that the movie is not a strict follower of the book, mainly because the book is a self-help guide, and therefore, has no characters. What the writers and director of the movie, (Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein of Never Been Kissed writing fame, and Ken Kwapis of The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants and NBC’s The Office,) did was to take the basic scenarios of the book and create characters who go through the experiences, including “He’s just not that into you…if he’s not calling you,” “he’s just not that into you… if he’s not having sex with you,” “he’s just not that you…if he doesn’t want to marry you,” and last but certainly not least, “he’s just not that into you…if’s he’s married (and other insane variations of being unavailable.” (I actually just quoted those examples from the table of contents of the book, which I own, and which I read, if that gives you any further reassurance that I’m confident about what I’m talking about here.) The basic plot-line weaves a tangled web of would-be romance and intrigue: Gigi (Ginnifer Goodwin) just wants to find a guy and takes Alex’s (Justin Long) advice, while her co-workers, Beth (Jennifer Anniston) and Janine (Jennifer Connelly), respectively can’t convince their men Neil (Ben Affleck), and Ben (Bradley Cooper) to either marry them or not cheat on them. Meanwhile, sultry singer/yoga instructor Anna (Scarlett Johansson) is fooling around with Janine’s husband Ben, and slighting her wannabe-leading man, Conor (Kevin Connolly), friend of Alex, who just happens to meet unlucky-in-love Mary (Drew Barrymore).

Besides featuring an obviously star-studded cast, the movie also boasts some wonderfully cheeky lines, such as when Anna tells Ben he has a “dry-hump-able ass,” and some cringe-worthy moments of truth that viewers can relate to and feel for Gigi as she throws herself on Alex, only to be rejected, yet again. But what fascinated me most about this movie was not, in fact, the movie itself, which has received moderate reviews, (it scored 6.6 stars out of 10 on, as well as 2.5 out of 5 possible in the New York Times’ review section,) but rather the people who came to see it. I went, as stated, with a group of single girl friends, all of us well-dressed, articulate, and (I would hope) averagely attractive. Other groups of similar college-aged women peppered the audience in groups ranging from twos to seven or eight, who all “ooh’ed” and “aww’ed” and laughed and groaned at the appropriate times. A few couples cuddled together and smooched loudly through the decidedly mostly unromantic movie, which really made me wonder why they had come to flaunt their together-ness in a dark theater full of single women to see a movie about why men are such douche-bags and why women are so crazy about emotions and overly-analytical. Oh, and did I happen to mention this was on Valentine’s Day?

The sort of guy who takes a girl to see this movie on Valentine’s Day is also the sort of guy who, as Ben does in the movie, would tell his wife in the middle of Home Depot that he’d slept with another woman. I sat there, stunned, in the dark theater, and then actually murmured out-loud, “But there are power drills there. And power saws. And staple guns. Why would you tell her that somewhere she could easily hurt you with large, expensive machinery?” Not well thought-out. Unfortunately, the writers decided to take this scenario somewhere I would never expect it to go in real life if it involved a woman with any self-respect or sense of vindication, and instead Ben’s wife, Janine, takes a moment to mull this information over and responds with a bland, “We’ll work through this.” The writers seriously missed a chance for some good, realistic, full-blown action here.

On the other hand, the sort of single girl who goes to see this movie on Valentine’s Day is a closet masochist who just wants to quickly run through why she is single again while she internally panics while wondering if she and the delusional Gigi are really so alike, but brings friends to remind her of what to do, and what not to do, next time she goes on a date. Also, it doubles nicely as an intervention meeting. If you have a friend who just can’t get out of her own way love-wise, just pay eight bucks for her to see the damn movie and hope something sinks in. While Greg Behrendt, main man behind the whole “He’s Just Not That Into You” philosophy can be downright depressing at times, some things he does seem to get right across the crossed lines of gender-miscommunication: if he’s not calling you, he’s not interested, so don’t waste your time calling him, ok?

Otherwise, the movie was visually pleasing: attractive cast, with someone for everyone. (Ben Affleck has aged really well, by the way. Like fine wine. Or maybe whiskey.) Good lighting, bright and cherry in some scenes, and dark and moody in others to reflect the feel of the current action. Nice setting and sets—night shots of Baltimore after dark were a refreshing change from the glitterati of New York, while the apartments and offices of the characters told you more about their characters, from the obsessive-compulsively color and modern architecturally schemed construction going on in Janine’s new house to funky Mary’s eclectic and warm-colored advertising agency’s headquarters. Other than the odd choice of putting Scarlett Johansson in t-shirts tucked into high-waisted and chunkily belted jeans (blasphemy!), costume and make-up was classy, classic, and well-done. In short, the men were well-dressed and rugged, and the women looked like they had been ripped out of the pages of the latest J. Crew magazine.

My humble advice? If you’re a single girl who wants a reality check and will take any excuse to ogle Ben Affleck or the quirky and humorous Justin Long in the dark, grab a couple friends and go spend the money to see this on the big-screen. And if you’re a guy, do NOT bring a girl to see this movie no matter how much of a good idea she thinks it is, because buddy, after 120 minutes, your shit has been blown wide open, and you’re going to have a suspicious date glaring at you when the lights go up asking, “You are going to call me, right?” Ouch. I hope you weren’t planning on getting laid.


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