Rating: 2.5 stars
So let me get this straight: He’s Just Not That Into You is a movie based on a self-help book based on an episode of a TV show (Sex and the City).
And yet, with all that seemingly against it, it actually manages to be something of a (qualified) success. The movie cleverly weaves the basic message of the book—that men aren’t that complicated and usually make their feelings and desires pretty explicitly known—into a series of interrelated stories about dating, love, and miscommunication. It even manages to update the book, by acknowledging technology’s role in today’s dating Babel. (Although, its vocabulary on that front is so last year—nary a mention of Facebook of Twitter). Oh, and the best part? It’s set in Baltimore!
Gennifer Goodwin plays Gigi, your basic misinterpreter of male signs. She starts out the film on a chemistry-free date with real estate agent Conor (Kevin Connolly) and then proceeds to analyze his farewell words (“Nice to have met you”), the kiss (on the cheek), and his unconvincing promise to call. Then she waits, in vain, for Conor to call back. Eventually, she finds herself (in borderline stalker mode) at the bar where Conor hangs out and strikes up a conversation with bartender and major player Alex (Justin Long), who gives her some harsh truths: If Conor wanted to call, he would have. The reason he didn’t call? All together now: He’s just not that into you. Those familiar with the conventions of romantic comedies know that Alex and Gigi are destined to have a romantic entanglement of their own.
Conor, meanwhile, is pining away for his sexy ex Anna (Scarlett Johansson), who has relegated him to the dreaded “just friends” status. She has fallen in love with dishy Ben (Bradley Cooper), the man of her dreams who also happens to be . . .married to Gigi’s friend Janine (Jennifer Connolly.)
On the outskirts of all this is Beth (Jennifer Aniston), extremely happy with her beau Neil (Ben Affleck) who is impossibly perfect but for one major snafu: He doesn’t believe in marriage.
Last and surprisingly least (at least in terms of screen time) is Drew Barrymore’s Mary, the one who is bewildered by all the Internet rejection. She works at the gay newspaper, The Baltimore Blade (amazing that title hasn’t actually been used!), and gets snarky romantic advice from her gay, male colleagues.
If all those plots seem a little busy, they are. The movie feels quite episodic and, lacking a traditional narrative progression, has a tendency to drag. But it has a lot of charm—a transition device featuring man-on-the-street style interviews with those who have been unlucky in love are particularly amusing. (One woman bemoans the invention of Caller ID: “I want to reserve the right to call the guy every 20 minutes and not have him know it!” she cries). And, of course, the comely cast—a group of film and TV vets— is quite winning.
As for Baltimore? It comes across as hip, beautiful, romantic, and spotlessly clean. In other words, a little bit of fantasy and a little bit of truth—just like the film itself.