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Thursday, February 12, 2009

He’s Just Not That Into You

Yesterday I saw He’s Just Not That Into You and I expected to not be that into it, but surprisingly I was. Since I’ve been married since Adam first tried on his fig leaf (it was poison ivy by the way; what a moron!), I haven’t had to worry whether a guy was “into” me because I’ve always had one who was. Granted, there were a few not-so-perfect-ex-husbands who I wish weren’t so into me, but that’s my problem and perhaps another book topic authors Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo might consider now that they’ve practically exhausted beating the dead horse of He’s Just Not That Into You from cover-to-cover and now onto the big screen. Maybe that could be the sequel, Why Do I Jump at Every Loser That’s Into Me When I Know He’s Going to Ruin My Life? It would be a natural follow-up and could easily star most of the same cast and follow their stories from the “happy endings” presented in He’s Just Not That Into You to that next stage, the post-“happy endings” not-so-jolly midlife drag.

In He’s Just Not That Into You, a variety of Hollywood A and B-Listers star in a modern-day version of a nearly-forgotten tv classic (?) “Love, American Style,” which was sort of a dry-docked “Love Boat” before that show ever set sail. Anyway, He’s Just Not That Into You features a series of vignettes of modern love, marriage, sex, and dating in the world of Facebook, MySpace, email, iphones, IMs, and whatever other technologies might interfere or enhance the possibility of a love connection today. Take the case of straight gal Mary (Drew Barrymore; Music and Lyrics), who works in ad sales for a gay newspaper and relies on her gay co-workers, Joshua (Leonardo Nam; The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2) and Nathan (Wilson Cruz; The People I've Slept With) to explain how to navigate the differences between romance and booty calls. Any girl who doesn’t know that probably shouldn’t be let out of the house without a box of condoms and map to Stupidville.

Then there’s GiGi (Ginnifer Goodwin; tv’s “Big Love”), the lovely young woman who works at an
advertising agency by day and craves male attention so much so that she thinks even the tiniest bit of courtesy or a stray glimpse by any guy under eighty is practically a marriage proposal. Thank goodness Alex (Justin Long; Zack and Miri Make a Porno), the bartender at the neighborhood pub where GiGi inevitably ends up with her dates, is around to offer her some “manly prospective” on why she keeps getting stood up or not called back after that first date.

There are stories about marriages and the people in them as well. Take Ben (Bradley Cooper; Yes Man) and Janine (Jennifer Connelly; The Day the Earth Stood Still), who are in the process of remodeling their brownstone home. Both are feeling the pressure of living in a house under construction, especially Janine, who takes her frustrations out on Ben when things aren’t going well with their contractor, Jaiver (Vermont’s own Luis Guzmán; Beverly Hills Chihuahua). In turn, Ben takes out his frustrations the way only a man would tend to do, with a yoga instructor he’s met named Anna (Scarlett Johansson; The Spirit).

Another woman is not the problem with Neil (Ben Affleck; Smokin’ Aces) and Beth (Jennifer
Anniston; Marley and Me). Ben adores Beth and professes he always will. He just has a tiny problem with the idea of getting married. That legal issue and the “piece of paper” somehow offend his sensibilities. Unfortunately, after seven years together, it’s no longer a tiny problem to Beth, whose sisters seem to constantly remind her of their weddings and marriages and her lack of both, which ends up offending her sensibilities. The only thing that offends my sensibilities is having to sit through all this cutesy-poo bickering when we all know how it’s going to resolve itself and I might as well pick out my bridesmaid’s dress before the movie starts.

Then there’s Conor (Kevin Connolly; tv’s “Entourage”). Not only does he not know how to spell his
name, he doesn’t have a clue what’s going on with his girlfriend. He is ready to settle down, get married, and is even envisioning a yard full of kids. There’s just one thing ~ his would-be wife happens to be that same Anna that is doing the horizontal hula with Ben. Hmmm. Maybe she’s turned off by Conor’s pretending to be gay at his job as a realtor since he caters to and advertises in the local gay newspaper where he consistently gets terrific customer service and lots of laughs from this woman he’s never met, Mary. Playing gay for pay might put a crimp in any woman’s idea of the ideal husband. After all, who wants to share their panties with the hubby? Well, okay, I’m sure there are a few of you out there, but still…

Even Stevie Wonder can see where all of these stories are going, but as Ursula K. Lequin said, “It's the journey that matters in the end." Terrific stand-out performances by some of the lesser well-known members of the cast, like Bradley Cooper, Justin Long, Ginnifer Goodwin, and Kevin Connolly, are supported by the “big” stars more than overshadowed by them. As executive producer, Drew Barrymore barely gives her own character much screen-time, a rare trait to be found in an actress. They usually clamor to beef up their roles more than diminish them, but director Ken Kwapis (Australia’s version of tv’s “The Office”) does a good job at highlighting the characters he wants to bring to the forefront without caving in to the whims of Hollywood egos. Perhaps being from Oz, he is removed enough to not recognize who’s who on the food chain. Either that or Barrymore and her other co-producers planned from the outset to fill many of the key roles with actors deserving of a showcase, and appealed to the bigger stars to come aboard knowing exactly what the plan was. Certainly Anniston and Affleck provide the rock, both heavyweight stars that will draw people to a movie based on their name in the credits alone, and Kwapis rightly keeps their story equally on a par to the others although not as interweaved with the others as everyone else’s. The rest of the vignettes may have an A list name attached, but it’s not so much Jennifer Connelly’s story as it is Bradley Cooper’s, nor is Scarlett Johansson the focal point in her tale with Kevin Connolly. The biggest winner, though, has to be former Barrymore flame Justin Long, best known to most audiences as the “I’m a PC” guy from all those “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” commercials on television. His character Alex takes the most compelling emotional journey along the way and it is, if not the most unexpected, the most satisfying, by the film’s end, making his performance the one you will remember.

It’s possible you may also remember Scarlett Johansson from this movie as well, but not necessarily in a good way. The Other Boleyn Girl may have been Hollywood’s hot new heartthrob a couple of years ago when she first made an appearance, but lately she has faltered. First there was her turn is a sadistic Nazi-uniformed sidekick to Samuel L. Jackson in The Spirit and now in
He’s Just Not That Into You, she gives a pouty, almost lifeless performance, as if she either forgot to read the script or just doesn’t care about what she’s doing. I guess if I was married to Ryan Reynolds in real life I might be distracted a lot and not be able to pay attention to my work, but one thing I could say for sure is that he’s definitely into me. Daily. Hourly. Until he was nothing left but a dry husk of his former self.

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