By the time I’d hopped on the bus down to the Metreon for the press screening of “He’s Just Not That Into You,” I already knew what my review would say. The movie would be “clichéd,” “overdone,” “uninspired,” “sexist,” “a waste of time.” My snarky review would chastise the film industry for continuously shoving “chick flicks” laced with chauvinism and dated morals in the faces of women, especially around Valentine’s Day. Walking out of the theater, I realized my initial review just wouldn’t do. I actually, embarrassingly, liked the movie.
The film chronicles a group of ladies and gentlemen through the turbulence of romantic life. It’s structured as a narrative around a few major “ifs” that flash in white font on the black screen during different parts of the film. What to do: “if he’s not calling you,” “if he’s not marrying you,” “if she’s not sleeping with you,” “if he’s sleeping with someone else.” The “ifs” almost seem to be forcefully inserted to adhere to the book (which I never read). They’re relevant, but not really necessary.
The narrative shows the lives of several couples and individuals incestuously intertwined in Baltimore, Md. It attempts to profile the diverse spectrum of relationships: cyber dating, promiscuity, a cheating husband, struggle to find the one, from friends to more than friends (and maybe back again), the boyfriend that won’t marry, divorce. Through characters’ relationships, it attempts to evaluate the “exceptions” and the “rules” of love. It also boasts an all-star cast: Ben Affleck, Jennifer Aniston, Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Connelly, Kevin Connolly, Bradley Cooper, Ginnifer Goodwin, Scarlett Johansson, Kris Kristofferson and Justin Long.
It’s not the cast or story that made the movie enjoyable. Instead, it was the hilariously relatable one-liners highlighting the painful world of romance. It tackles serious dating problems without taking itself too seriously. Every person knows how it feels to try to find love. There’s the uncomfortable world of dating – the awkward phone calls, but even worse are no calls and the misreading of signals. There’s the overanalyzing of every word, movement and facial expression. In relationships there’s the terrifying attempt at trust and the evaluation of whether the relationship is really going anywhere. In life, these situations are stressful and upsetting. In the movies, we can all take a collective sigh and laugh at the misfortunes of others.
Unfortunately, the film still suffers from a poor attempt at modern values. The gay characters, all painfully flamboyant, play assorted small parts as romantic advisors to their heterosexual friends (and main characters). There are no people of color. Ultimately, the pressure is still on getting married. The women have careers and independence, but still seek what the film prizes as the ultimate goal: marriage. It enforces the expectation that, in the end, men and women belong in committed relationships together: the Hollywood propaganda I expected on my bus ride down.
While it may not be particularly progressive or sophisticated, “He’s Just Not That Into You” is full of charming dialogue and quirky romance just in time for Valentine’s Day.
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