Saturday, March 14, 2009

... and I'm not that into it either

He's just not that into you directed by Ken Kwapis (U.S., 2009) 129 min.

I really did want to see this film with my pal B but we postponed it until we saw all the Oscar nominated films.

It has a certain ring of truth in it ... despite the silliness of the catch phrase (originally coined on a Sex and the City episode and then made into a book). It captures the insecurity that some women feel when dating, their uncertainty in knowing what men want, how to be happy in a relationship, how to read his signals, etc ... Characters pursue and fling themselves at potential partners who are not that "into" them. The power dynamic is always skewed, with one more ardent than the other. I can't say the experiences depicted are foreign to me.

The little sections prefaced by questions that women and men ask themselves while dating such as why a guy hasn't called hearken back directly to the first few episodes of Sex and the City which remind me of early Woody Allen films set in New York such as Annie Hall. It is a charming technique I admit.

Conor (Kevin Connelly), real estate agent, covets Anna (Scarlett Johannson), yoga instructor; Anna wants Ben (Bradley Cooper), music executive, who is married to Janine (Jennifer Connelly), copywriter for a spice company; Gigi (Ginnifer Goodwin), Janine's co-worker, pursues Conor futilely then Alex (Justin Long), bar owner and Conor's friend; Mary (Drew Barrymore), ad sales flunky for a gay magazine, flails along in a number of hopeless relationships, most of them conducted electronically; Beth (Jennifer Aniston), Janine and Gigi's co-worker, and Neil (Ben Affleck) are in love but at cross purposes about where their relationship is going.

Despite the large Robert Altman-style size of the cast and interaction of characters who pop into each others' lives, it is surprisingly conservative in the end. From the title emphasizing that "he" is not into "you" ("you" inevitably being a female) and the opening sequence which shows women of all ages, physical types, ethnicities, moaning about the perfidy of men to the final scenes where those who engage in adultery end up alone (i.e. Ben and Anna's affair). Those who remain true to themselves and honest in their relationships end up playing happy couples: Mary and Conor, Beth and Neil, Gigi and Alex.

Beth leaves Neil because he refuses to marry her after seven years but returns to him realizing that their relationship is as valid as any marriage whereby he decides to marry her making all right in the end. Would it be too subversive to have both reject marriage? Hey, I'm big on the concept myself but I know it's not for everyone nor should it be advocated for everyone.

And why, I wonder, are the women so much more attractive, so much more desirable, than the men here? Kevin Connelly, of Entourage fame thinking he can get and keep the affections of Scarlett Johannson? Ginnifer Goodwin lusting after Mac spokesperson Justin Long? Bradley Cooper (who?) and Johannson?? Why would these women be so hung up on these so-so guys?

Goodwin seems not much different here than her role as Margene in the HBO series Big Love: lovable, goofy, easily duped but good-hearted and she is charming but it doesn't seem like much of a progression from that role as the third wife in the polygamous household depicted in the series. Johannson emulates the flaky, hedonistic sex kitten Cristina from Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Aniston, while extremely likable on screen, has taken to playing these slightly melancholic, put out women who are unlucky in love and inept with men (The Good Girl, Friends with Money, and last year's unbelievably bad Management which premiered at TIFF).

It has its comic moments but the slight characterizations and silly plot take away the pleasure of some of the more sensitive performances by Jennifer Connelly, Jennifer Aniston and Ben Affleck.

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