8 June 2009

Movie Review: He's Just Not That Into You


B-

He's Just Not That Into You
2009, 129mins, PG-13
Director: Ken Kwapis
Writer (s): Abby Kohn, Mark Silverstein
Cast includes: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Aniston, Ben Affleck, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Connelly, Justin Long, Drew Barrymore, Scarlett Johansson
Release Date: 6th February 2009

He’s Just Not That Into You” is in fairness better than the scourge of romantic comedies that bung up multiplexes every year, indeed it’s an improvement over the Hollywood puff piece that’s clearly it’s inspiration, Richard Curtis’s abominably schmaltzy festive flick “Love Actually”. There’s something a little more thoughtful about “He’s Just Not That Into You”, it’s hardly a cerebral work of intelligence or a groundbreaking rom-com in the vein of “When Harry Met Sally” but it’s serviceable and just about emotionally resonant enough to receive a passing recommendation.

The plot is simply to vast to surmise without giving away a spoiler of sorts, but as was the case in the aforementioned “Love Actually” the characters are interconnected and the film explores the way that relationships form, work and in some cases end in Western culture. That may be to credit the project with more than it’s worth, it is after all a fairly ditzy effort with few genuinely insightful suggestions about the human state, but there are moments of admirably sly observation and general warmth that keeps it watchable. Certain strands of the tale are way better than others and certain characters are far more sympathetic. The cast is vast and certain people serve little to no purpose (I’m looking at you Barrymore) but others hit a credibly affecting romantic chord and keep “He’s Just Not That Into You” palatable and indeed occasionally reflective.

The performances and various relationship angles are a mixed bag but the movie finds more hits than misses. Maybe the most pointed and affecting section of the movie focuses on Ginnifer Goodwin as an adorable girl who just has trouble getting follow up dates with guys. She watches the phone like a hawk and strives for that elusive second meeting but never finds it. She finds solace in a barman played by Justin Long who teaches her in the art of reading men, and ultimately explaining why some dudes aren’t digging her. This portion is by far the most rewarding and well developed the production offers, other sections are nearly as good including one involving a married couple (Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Connolly) who are falling apart just as a sultry but earnest “hottie” “ (Scarlett Johansson) makes a move on the male half of the bond. However these more interesting parts do occasionally fall prey to other less stellar elements, for instance who cares if Drew Barrymore is having a MySpace dating crisis as four gay men lurk over her shoulder offering advice.

At over two hours the film is too long but not fatally so, there is just enough quality and heartfelt romance to make it a worthy investment of time. I was a little perplexed at how long director Ken Kwapis takes to play out a slightly stagnant segment in which Jennifer Aniston and Ben Affleck fall out die to his unwillingness to marry, but other than that most of the various strands couldn’t have been played out any faster. Granted Barrymore’s cyber meltdown would have been better left on the cutting room floor, but overall for the various laughs and emotional hurdles to seem natural a stretchy length was needed, but 129 minutes is too far. Chick flick and rom-coms should never numb your ass, that’s like an unwritten rule of cinema.

My favorite performances pretty much fell in line with my preferred dramatic parts of the picture, Goodwin is delightfully preppy and good natured and Justin Long elicits a good onscreen relationship with her. The destination is thoroughly predictable but watching his guru like womanizer and Goodwin’s innocent and endearing character bond over the art of dating is rather delightful. Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Connolly give good game even if their characters aren’t the pictures most likable whilst Affleck and Aniston maintain an air of comedic and emotional composure during their admittedly less stimulating contribution to the picture. Director Ken Kwapis last directed the loathsome and utterly irritating “License to Wed”, this is marked step up from that insufferable farce. “Wed” was spun for weak gags and Robin Williams style camera hogging but “He’s Just Not That Into You” displays a willingness from the director to tread more natural and mature paths. His film is still riddled with flaws (nearly a third of it just doesn’t work for god’s sake) but the elements that combine nicely offer up at least 80 minutes of good romantic fodder, more than “Bride Wars” can boast at any rate.

I didn’t expect much from “He’s Just Not That Into You” and certain parts of its sprawling love story conformed to those low expectations, but in truth more appeals about this film than doesn’t. I never want to hear Drew Barrymore complain about getting booty called over the internet again and certain aspects are decidedly formulaic but the moments that work are what allows this movie to enter the realm of acceptable and occasionally touching. It’s no masterpiece and indeed never strives to be but I was surprisingly into this movie.


A review by Daniel Kelly, 2009

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