Sunday, March 15, 2009

He's Just Not That Into You

Maybe it was the cute little trailer promising that this would not be just another typical chick flick. Maybe it was because Valentine's Day was that weekend. Maybe it was that chilly wintry air that my friends and I used to classify as "boyfriend weather" in high school. Honestly, I've stopped looking for a reason; all I can say is that I'm a girl and sometimes I have to act like one--which is why, a few weeks ago, I found myself nestled in a midtown theater with good friend and fellow Michigan Film alumnus Maria, ready to finally discover why He's Just Not That
Into You.

Two hours and nine minutes later, I emerged from that dark auditorium without the foggiest idea. Far from being an expert in the field of romance, I had hoped that the multiple interconnected storylines of a group of Baltimore-based 30-somethings would provide some enlightening insight into matters of the heart--and abridge the "fine print", if you will, of male-female interaction in the era of Facebook and MySpace into explanations that made sense to both the Casanova and the romantic novice. But while HJNTIY undoubtedly has some witty one-liners and moments of thoughtful observation, it ultimately tries just a bit too hard and ends up being reminiscent of, though greatly inferior to, its British precursor, Love Actually.

But that's not to say that there weren't some entertaining and surprisingly pleasant performances. As clueless as her character is, Ginnifer Goodwin pulls off Gigi (a young copywriter on a perpetually unsuccessful but increasingly desperate lookout for Mr. Right) with a vulnerability that makes her at least slightly endearing in a role that would otherwise have come off as just head-bashingly annoying. Justin Long, as the smarty pants bartender who coaches Gigi through her dismal romantic pursuits, appears egotistic and predictable. Yet, he plays Alex with a certain charm that definitely caught me off guard, even managing to illicit an involuntary and teary-eyed "awww" out of me after his monologue at the climax of his story*. Jennifer Connelly delivers one of the few believable portrayals in the film as the victim of an unfaithful marriage while Bradley Cooper is appropriately despicable as her cheating husband. As for Scarlett Johanssen, as beautiful and talented as she may be, I miss her Lost in Translation days when she was able to impress us with her subtle yet striking performances, not her seduction scenes. With similar roles in Match Point and Vicki Cristina Barcelona, and sultry cameos in Justin Timberlake videos, her enchantress acts are getting rather old; I suggest she detours fast before being completely typecast as the "other woman". The rest of the ginormous cast, though competent, aren't particularly memorable. Ben Affleck is wasted in a blink-and-you'll-miss-him role, playing Jennifer Aniston's commitment-phobic boyfriend, while Jen herself seems stifled in a role that doesn't appear to have much depth. Likewise for Kevin Connolly, whose character (which can be summarized as the male version of Goodwin's) could have been omitted altogether. And Drew Barrymore...let's just say that while she does get to voice a great speech about the frustrating complexities of modern-day communication**, she should have stopped acting after E.T.

My understanding is that this film intended to break down relationships for its female audience, to debunk antique myths and misconceptions of dating decorum and provide honest, no-nonsense guidelines for how guys' minds really operate in an attempt to relieve girls of hours of torment over silent phones and empty inboxes. And what it actually did, to some extent (for me, at least), was the exact opposite. I was never one to agonize for very long over such frivolous things as the frequency of a potential suitor's text messages or the fact that he added me as a friend before I added him. But now, I fear that the obsessive dissecting of conversations and endless picking-apart of infinitesimal gestures by Gigi and gang has left me on the verge of becoming a neurotic basket case myself. I wouldn't be surprised if, after paying my Sprint bill over the phone tomorrow, I hang up convinced that even the way the machine-operated voice asks me to enter my pass code "means something".

I'm still slightly confused over the credibility of some of the claims that the film puts forth, and would really like to know whether it was accurate in terms of conveying the way men truly think--what do you say, guys? Is it, as we girls have believed for generations, a sign of
infatuation when you pull our pigtails on the playground or does it in fact mean that you genuinely hate us?

On the other hand, some of the lessons imparted seem to be kind of obvious. I mean, if your last five relationships have consisted of nothing more than Skype conversations--without webcams!--clearly, there was no future. And if a guy doesn't call you after a first date, of course he's not that into you. I don't need a bunch of exceptionally attractive celebrities (who've probably never experienced that humiliation in the first place) to tell me that.

So basically, I paid $12 for a whole lot of eye candy, though still none the wiser when it comes to deciphering the psyche of the alien-like male counterparts that we women happen to share our planet with. Next time my girly instincts strike, remind me that my eyebrow place is just around the corner.

*I know, I'm such a sap.
**Which, anyway, should be credited to screenwriters Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein-not to Drew.