A smart, entertaining look at relationships with a terrific ensemble cast, "He's Just Not That Into You" has been adapted, somewhat unlikely, from the bestselling self-help book by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo. Despite the title, the film is thankfully not a man-hating diatribe nor a one-sided feminist rant. Instead, director Ken Kwapis (2007's "License to Wed
") and screenwriters Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein (1999's "Never Been Kissed
") treat both sexes with an equal fair hand. Each one of the characters has his or her good points and flaws, and, when it comes to dating, love and marriage, nobody has all the answers.
An interwoven tapestry of storylines all set in close proximity of their Baltimore surroundings, "He's Just Not That Into You" opens with the love-starved Gigi (Ginnifer Goodwin) out on a dinner date with real estate agent Conor (Kevin Connolly). She believes things went well, and drives herself insane trying to come up with reasons why he fails to call her back. She gets just the advice she needs when she opens up to bar owner Alex (Justin Long) and he tells her with cruel but necessary forthrightness that Conor would have done everything in his power to call if he was interested. That he didn't should be all the evidence Gigi needs to move on.
Meanwhile, Conor isn't exactly the most secure person when it comes to relationships, either. He is constantly receiving mixed signals from friend and sporadic lover Anna (Scarlett Johansson), a yoga instructor with her eye on business exec Ben (Bradley Cooper), who has agreed to help her in her aspirations as a singer. There's just one problemBen is married to college sweetheart Janine (Jennifer Connelly), Gigi's supportive sister and coworker. As they go about remodeling their home into an architecture digest's dream, Ben is torn by his burgeoning feelings for Anna, while Janine is reluctant to face the serious underlying troubles of her marriage.
Beth (Jennifer Aniston), fellow friend and officemate of Gigi and Janine, is also having her fair share of issues. When she senses that her seven-year live-in relationship with Neil (Ben Affleck) isn't going to go any furtherhe has made it clear that he doesn't believe in marriagethe two of them call it quits without either one ready to be single again. And as for Mary (Drew Barrymore), gal pal of Anna and sales rep for gay publication the Baltimore Blade
, true face-to-face contact in romantic relationships eludes her as she faces constant rejection through all facets of technological communication.
Divided by chapter headings and interspersed with seemingly off-the-cuff anecdotes about relationships from passersby on the street, "He's Just Not That Into You" is a sprawling, 129-minute dramedy that attempts to encompass many of the different woes, as well as joys, of seeking love and romantic fulfillment in the modern twenty-first century age. With one exception (more on this later), the film glides seamlessly from character to character and subplot to subplot, developing each person enough that the viewer grows to either care about them, or at least understand where they are coming from in their not always virtuous actions. At heart, they are all just trying to make their way in the world as best as they know how. Natural humor derives from the sharp writing and relatable situations rather than out of strained slapstick or one-liners, while the emotions felt are never less than poignant and true. The sappiness typically found in most screen romances is kept in check as to be virtually nonexistent. Furthermore, any motion picture that can use 1987's "Some Kind of Wonderful" as a story point and sell it wholesale is clearly after my own affections.
The wide array of performances from top-shelf talent is like a bouquet of roses all by itself. Ginnifer Goodwin (2007's "In the Land of Women
") is adorable as the neurotic, unlucky-in-love Gigi, as close as the film gets to a lead role. She is always likable, retaining her dignity amidst her quirks. Justin Long (2007's "Live Free or Die Hard
") impresses in one of his first real grown-up roles as Alex, Gigi's potential soul mate if only he would realize what is right in front of him (this is where "Some Kind of Wonderful" comes in). As Janine, Jennifer Connelly (2008's "The Day the Earth Stood Still
") finally gets the chance to smile onscreen after years of playing in heavy dramas, and yet she still manages to break the viewer's heart. Connelly's recognition of the problems in her marriage and her ultimately desperate attempt to fix them is perhaps as deep as the proceedings go, and she's superb in her every moment.
Jennifer Aniston (2008's "Marley & Me
") and Scarlett Johansson (2008's "The Spirit
") steal their scenes as two of the more complicated internal characters. As Beth, Aniston pulls off the tricky feat of desiring the constitution of marriage without coming off as old-fashioned or rigid, and her close relationship with father Ken (Kris Kristofferson) is beautifully handled. As Anna, Johansson brings humanity to a young woman who is torn between the ideals of what she thinks she should want out of romance and what she factually does. That Anna is a little wiser by the end without still having a firm grasp on her future rings with honesty. The odd cast member out is co-producer Drew Barrymore (2007's "Music and Lyrics
"), as the lovelorn Mary. Barrymore is absolutely fine with what she has been given, but she significantly gets the least amount of screen time and her character more often than not seems squeezed into the script rather than an organic extension of it.
Attractively photographed and stocked with a solid soundtrack that compliments the film without getting in the way, "He's Just Not That Into You" is an ambitious project that keeps things moving even as the running time exceeds two hours. Were all Hollywood love stories as involving as this one, length wouldn't even be a factor. The conclusion, satisfyingly wrapping up all the stories without feeling the need to always make them tidy, signals growth within the characters above all else. Unusually perceptive and thoughtful, "He's Just Not That Into You" nevertheless doesn't pretend to have all the answers when it comes to matters of the heart. That is precisely as it should be.